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Putin says he will sign measure

The bill will bar Americans from adopting Russian children.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, acceding to the anti-American fervor that has gripped the country's legislature, said Thursday that he intends to sign a bill barring Americans from adopting Russian children.

Various Kremlin officials had criticized the bill, which was designed as a means of retaliation against a new American law that targets corrupt Russian officials, but Putin has chosen not to heed their advice.

Having spent the last year stoking hostility toward the United States, he is now faced with an emotional response from the parliament that seems to be on the verge of getting away from him. Though he raised questions about the adoption bill at his annual news conference earlier this month, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Science and Education Minister Dmitry Livanov, among others, have called it ill-advised, on Thursday Putin said, "I have not seen any reason why I should not sign it."

'Cannibalistic' bill

The journalist Alexander Minkin, on his blog for the Ekho Moskvy website, described the Russian bill as "cannibalistic": With Americans placing sanctions on certain corrupt Russian bureaucrats, he wrote, Moscow strikes back by punishing its own orphans.

The move abruptly cancels a painstakingly negotiated bilateral agreement regulating American adoptions of Russians. That agreement went into effect just weeks ago. It is an "unfortunate" decision, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement released after the bill went through the lower house of parliament, "to take away these negotiated safeguards and ignore the hard work and negotiations on both sides that went into putting this agreement together."

But Putin has already described the agreement as ineffective and a case of "sham stupidity."

The adoption law passed the lower house of the Russian parliament by a vote of 420-7, and the upper house unanimously.

Souring relations

It is a benchmark in the recent deterioration of relations between the United States and Russia that began during the Russian presidential campaign at the start of the year.

Pavel Astakhov, the children's ombudsman and an enthusiastic supporter of the bill, said its signing would block the pending adoptions of 46 children.

But Social Policies Minister Olga Golodets has raised concerns that it violates several treaties and other agreements that Russia has signed.

About 740,000 children live in Russian orphanages, according to UNICEF. Over the last 20 years, 60,000 Russians have been adopted by Americans, including a significant number with developmental disabilities.

Putin said Thursday that he would issue decrees intended to improve conditions in orphanages and to make adoption more palatable for Russian families. He noted approvingly that in some of the most violent regions of the Caucasus, children of parents who have died are taken in by relatives, in contrast to the rest of the country.