Russia’s child-shields

European Voice

To prevent corrupt Russian officials being barred from Europe, Russia is now using the threat of an adoption ban against European states.

I am no great fan of the international adoption business – it can easily turn into a corrupt, unregulated and even sinister market in children. It is much better to deal with the reasons that the children end up in institutions in the first place and to encourage people to provide homes for them in their own country.

Now Russia is threatening to ban international adoptions. Not as part of a big push to improve child welfare, but to punish foreign countries for their temerity in imposing visa sanctions and asset freezes on the people – mainly officials – involved in the death of the auditor Sergei Magnitsky, and the $230 million (€176m) fraud that he uncovered.

It is worth bearing in mind the nature of the fraud. My email inbox is peppered with complaints from foreigners who have fallen foul of officialdom or local competitors in Russia. My answer is always the same: tough. If you go mud-wrestling, in a seemingly lucrative contest where the referee is known to be corruptible, and where your adversaries are rich and unscrupulous, you will certainly get dirty and may well lose.

But this was not a greedy or reckless foreign investor being swindled. The victim was the Russian taxpayer. That exemplifies what is wrong with Russia today, not just because of what happened to Magnitsky (he was jailed, abused, denied medical treatment and in the hours before his death, savagely beaten). His abusers have not been punished; they were promoted and praised. The only person to be prosecuted – posthumously – was Magnitsky. The authorities are also trying to extradite his client, the British-American financier Bill Browder (whose companies were used as vehicles for the fraud).

After much lobbying by Browder, the United States passed a law naming and banning 18 officials (16 of them involved in the Magnitsky affair). Russia’s initial response was to ban American officials from visiting Russia.

This was a fairly symbolic measure. American judicial, intelligence and financial-supervisory officials do not make a habit of stashing vast sums in Russian banks, or keeping their mistresses in Moscow, or educating their children in Russian universities, or buying luxury flats there. (American officials, with a few dishonourable exceptions, do not do it anywhere; senior Russian officials habitually do this sort of thing in the West.)

The next stage in the Russian response was to ban American families from adopting Russian children. That does not just consign the inmates of orphanages to more misery. In some cases these parents have already built up strong and loving relationships with the children concerned. Now they have no chance of making a new home for them.

This was not a one-off. Russia has now used just the same weapon against Ireland, where a committee of legislators had recommended a law mirroring the measure just passed in the US. In response, Russia’s ambassador to Ireland threatened an adoption ban. Ireland promptly backed down.

It will be hard for individual countries to deal with this tactic. But the European Parliament can. The Kremlin covets visa-free travel to the EU – chiefly for some 16,000 bearers of official passports. Thanks to Russian lobbying (and some rather feeble behaviour by certain governments), that has gained the required support in the Council of Ministers. But it still needs the assent of the Parliament.

MEPs should respond by saying that the visa-liberalisation can go ahead – so long as it comes along with Magnitsky sanctions at a European level, with progress reviewed every year. All the main groups in the European Parliament have already backed the Magnitsky cause. Now they have a chance to show that they meant what they said.

Edward Lucas edits the international section of The Economist. онлайн займы buy viagra online zp-pdl.com https://zp-pdl.com/fast-and-easy-payday-loans-online.php payday loan

вивус займы credit-n.ru займ на карту без отказа без проверки
быстрый займ на киви кошелек credit-n.ru займ онлайн круглосуточно на банковскую карту
онлайн займ на карту маэстро credit-n.ru займ онлайн на киви кошелек срочно
екапуста займ онлайн на карту credit-n.ru займ на киви кошелек мгновенно

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg

Place your comment

Please fill your data and comment below.

Your comment