The Atlantic

Why Does the Kremlin Care So Much About the Magnitsky Act?

What Russian officials mean when they talk about “adoptions”
Source: Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

Let’s get something straight: The Magnitsky Act is not, nor has it ever been, about adoptions.

The Magnitsky Act, rather, is about money. It freezes certain Russian officials’ access to the stashes they were keeping in Western banks and real estate and bans their entry to the United States. The reason Russian (and now, American) officials keep talking about adoption in the same breath is because of how the Russian side retaliated to the Magnitsky Act in 2012, namely by banning American adoptions of Russian children. The Russians vowed they were punishing Americans who violated the human rights of Russians, after an adopted Russian toddler died of heat stroke in a Virginia family’s car. But the only Americans the bill directly targeted were the ones involved in putting the Magnitsky Act together.

At the time the adoption ban was passed, the Russian Federation had more orphaned and abandoned children than it did the 95 Russian orphans whose American adoptions fell through just as the law was signed in 2012, 95 Russian orphans whom Russians didn’t want to adopt. There was a massive outcry in Russia and thousands protested in Moscow against a bill that made no sense: If the Kremlin is so angry about the Magnitsky Act, why was it punishing … Russians? And the most vulnerable Russians at that?

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