Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, abruptly terminating the prospects for more than 50 youngsters preparing to join new families.
The move is part of a harsh response to a U.S. law targeting Russians deemed to be human rights violators. Although some top Russian officials including the foreign minister openly opposed the bill, Putin signed it less than 24 hours after receiving it from Parliament, where it passed both houses overwhelmingly.
For Cindy and Dennis Boyer of Brooksville, it's devastating news.
"My gut reaction is I got fear, my stomach turned, " said Cindy Boyer.
The couple has been trying to adopt 2-year-old Adalyn from Russia since May. The little girl has spent her whole life in an orphanage and suffers from a cleft palate birth defect that also afflicted three of the eight other Boyer children.
"We just want to bring her home to give her the surgery she needs, " Cindy Boyer said.
But now their dreams of expanding their family are on hold, indefinitely, thanks to the ban.
It stems from the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested after accusing officials of a $230 million tax fraud. He was repeatedly denied medical treatment and died in jail in 2009. Russian rights groups claimed he was severely beaten.
A prison doctor who was the only official charged in the case was acquitted by a Moscow court on Friday. Although there was no demonstrable connection to Putin's signing the law a few hours later, the timing underlines what critics say is Russia's refusal to responsibly pursue the case.
The adoption ban has angered both Americans and Russians who argue it victimizes children to make a political point, cutting off a route out of frequently dismal orphanages for thousands.
It could eventually affect hundreds of American families like the Boyers hoping to adopt.
U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell expressed regret over Putin's signing the law and urged Russia to "allow those children who have already met and bonded with their future parents to finish the necessary legal procedures so that they can join their families."
Vladimir Lukin, head of the Russian Human Rights Commission and a former ambassador to Washington, said he would challenge the law in the Constitutional Court.
UNICEF estimates that there are about 740,000 children not in parental custody in Russia while about 18,000 Russians are on the waiting list to adopt a child. The U.S. is the biggest destination for adopted Russian children -- more than 60,000 of them have been taken in by Americans over the past two decades.
Many Russians have been distressed for years by reports of Russian children dying or suffering abuse at the hands of their American adoptive parents. The new Russian law was dubbed the "Dima Yakovlev Bill" after a toddler who died in 2008 when his American adoptive father left him in a car in broiling heat for hours.
In that case, the father was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and Russia has complained of acquittals or light sentences in other such cases.
The Investigative Committee, Russia's top investigative body, on Friday complained that its attempts to have the acquittals overturned or reconsidered had been ignored by the United States. Under U.S. law, acquittals are final except in rare cases.
Russians also bristled at how the widespread adoptions appeared to show them as hardhearted or too poor to take care of orphans. Astakhov, the children's ombudsman, charged that well-heeled Americans often got priority over Russians who wanted to adopt.
A few lawmakers even claimed that some Russian children were adopted by Americans only to be used for organ transplants or become sex toys or cannon fodder for the U.S. Army. A spokesman for Russia's dominant Orthodox Church said that children adopted by foreigners and raised outside the church will not enter God's kingdom.
But all politics aside, the Boyers are staying positive.
"Our facilitator told us when we were in country that we were okay, that we're submitted, we're registered but we do need to get back quickly, " Boyer said.
According to State Department records, Americans adopted close to 1,000 children from Russia last year. The Boyers hope they can add to the number and bring little Adalyn home soon.
"We still want to stay positive, our heads forward, still leaning towards this happening, " Dennis said.
(Material from the Associated Press contributed to this report.)
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
Didn't find what you were looking for?