Washington: More than 70 US lawmakers have appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama, pleading with the two leaders to allow pending US adoptions of Russian children to go through.
In response to a US law sanctioning Russian officials for alleged rights abuses, Putin signed a law banning US citizens from adopting Russian children.
The law left many Russian children and their prospective American parents ensnared in the final stages of lengthy and expensive adoptions.
"As you are aware, many of the children involved in these cases have special medical needs and the families with whom they have been matched have been found by Russian officials to be willing and able to accommodate these needs," Republican and Democratic lawmakers from both houses of the US Congress wrote in a letter to Putin.
"The matched children believed they were soon going to become part of a safe, loving and permanent family," the letter continued.
The officials asked Putin, the father of two children, "to make the finalisation of these cases a priority".
As many as 1,000 Russian children are in the process of being adopted by American families, according to the US State Department.
In a separate letter to Obama, the lawmakers said: "We must immediately find a way forward for the Russian orphans and American families who are caught in this political conundrum."
"This misguided Russian law victimises thousands of vulnerable Russian children, who are now living in dismal conditions in Russian institutions, with little hope of a permanent family except through inter-country adoption," they wrote.
The letters were authored by US Senators Mary Landrieu, who has two adopted children, and Roy Blunt, who adopted a child from Russia and co-chairs the Congressional Coalition on Adoption.
Both Landrieu and Blunt voted in favour of a bill normalising trade relations with Russia that included the Magnitsky Act, legislation banning visas to Russian officials deemed by Washington to be complicit in rights abuses and freezing their US assets.
Obama signed the bill into law Dec. 14, and Russia quickly enacted a retaliatory law that included the adoption ban.
Russian officials have said the ban is partially a response to several cases in recent years in which US parents have neglected or abused children they adopted from Russia.
In several cases, the adopted children died as a result of abuse.