White House urged to punish Russians backing US adoption ban
Washington: The White House has been flooded with tens of thousands of requests to blacklist Russian officials supporting a ban on US adoptions of Russian children amid an escalating diplomatic feud.
A petition asking the White House to slap sanctions on Russian legislators who vote for the adoption ban - which was approved by Russia's lower house of parliament last week - had collected more than 52,000 signatures as of Monday morning.
The petition calls for the lawmakers to be punished in accordance with the Magnitsky Act, a newly enacted US law that denies visas to Russian officials deemed by Washington to be complicit in human rights abuses and freezes their American assets.
"We are outraged with the actions of Russian lawmakers, who breached all imaginable boundaries of humanity, responsibility, or common sense and chose to jeopardize lives and well-being of thousands of Russian orphans," reads the petition, which was launched last Friday.
A similarly worded second petition asking that the Magnitsky Act sanctions be extended to Russian lawmakers supporting the ban had collected more than 8,000 signatures as of Monday morning.
The adoption ban is part of a broader bill that targets US officials accused of violating Russian citizens' rights. The legislation is Moscow's response to the Magnitsky Act, which Russia has called a hypocritical attempt by the US to meddle in its internal affairs.
The Federation Council, Russia's upper house of parliament, is set to consider the bill Wednesday. If passed there, it will be sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin for final consideration.
The call to punish Russian officials backing the adoption ban was submitted as a "We the People" petition, a White House initiative that allows people to request the US president to take action on just about any issue imaginable.
The petitions are not legally binding, though the White House has promised to respond to any petition that gathers 25,000 signatures within 30 days - a threshold that the petition to punish Russian lawmakers has already crossed.
The petition has already caught the attention of lawmakers in Moscow, who warned that imposing Magnitsky Act sanctions on the parliamentarians could ratchet up the diplomatic row even further.
"If they set limits to the entry of the State Duma or the Federation Council members, the counter measure will be banning the Congress members from entering Russia," said Dmitry Vyatkin, deputy head of the constitution and state affairs committee in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament.
A petition submitted Sunday asks the Obama administration to punish Putin under the Magnitsky Act should the Russian president sign Moscow's retaliatory bill into law. That petition had collected more than 10,000 signatures as of Monday morning.