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The Buzz Barometer: 'March Against Scoundrels'
January 15, 2013 15:13

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 The biggest talk of the town over the past two-three weeks concerning Russia was the so called Dima Yakovlev law, a retaliatory response to the US Magnitsky Act aimed against corrupt officials involved in the death of Sergey Magnitsky, who worked for the Hermitage Capital investment foundation.


The Dima Yakovlev law passed by the parliament in record time bans all US adoptions. No American parents can adopt a child from Russia starting from 2013, except for those cases where there is a positive court ruling already. The US-Russian adoptions agreement will be in force till 2014, one year more after the Russian side notified Washington of its cancellation.


The US State Department wasn’t quite happy with the decision. But it was ordinary Russians who felt disgruntled and deeply embarrassed for their lawmakers.


That’s why a group of civil activists filed an application for a protest rally to be held on Moscow streets. And here’s what the international media had to say on the event.


The Los Angeles Times ran a pretty good article describing the ‘March Against Scoundrels’. The crowd carried portraits of the president and MPs, who voted for the bill, with the word ‘shame’ written across them and then dumped them into a big garbage bin, says the newspaper’s Sergei Loiko.

According to him, the ‘cannibalistic’ anti-adoption law ‘re-galvanized the Russian protest movement’, which subsided after the presidential inauguration in May 2012.


A schoolteacher quoted by the LA Times said that the Kremlin’s hypocrisy couldn’t compare even with the lies of the Soviet regime.


ABC News pointed to the usual discrepancies in the estimate of the size of the crowd, with police putting the figure at about 7,000, organizers talking about 20,000 and some opposition leaders tweeting about 50,000.


It also points out that similar protest, albeit of a lower scale, took place in other cities across Russia.


ABC News is one of the few editions that mention divisions within the government on the issue, saying that Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov opposed the ban.


Bloomberg’s two articles give more info. One focused on how lawmakers ignored the petition signed by more than 100,000 people, urging the MPs to review the adoption ban. It also mentioned the second call on the Novaya Gazeta website for the parliament to be disbanded, which also gathered some 120,000 signatures.


Bloomberg’s Ilya Arkhipov quotes chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building Vladimir Pligin who ruled that such a call would be “illegitimate”.


In its second article on the issue, Bloomberg cites United Russia members’ response to the ‘March Against Scoundrels’.


According to Ekaterina Lakhova, one of the sponsors of the Dima Yakovlev law, those who were to attend the rally cared more about American business. I say ‘to attend’ because she arrived at the square an hour and a half and left 30 minutes before the march began, saying there were ‘not many people’.


More vocal was reaction by Andrey Isayev, deputy secretary of United Russia’s general council, who branded all the protesters as ‘enemies of Russian sovereignty’, and the rally itself the ‘Match of Child-Sellers’.


Quoting one geography professor, the New York Times reminds its readers that Moscow is different from the heartland, and that the government has been using ‘conservative language’ turning away from middle class city dwellers sharing their anger over the Internet.


In fact, a survey by the Moscow-based Public Opinion Fund in late December revealed that 56 percent of Russians actually supported the US adoption ban, says the Washington Times.


The newspaper also points out the role of the Orthodox Church that has advocated against the adoptions and the media which has aired ‘regular reports in recent weeks’ on American parents who have treated their Russian children badly.


Kathy Lally’s column in the Washington Post puts the recent ban in context, giving an overview of what happened over the past year – ever more restrictive laws on rallies, expulsion of the USAID agency, and a current bill ‘making it illegal for Russians with dual citizenship and foreigners’ to slam Russia on state-run media.


But these reports have all been eclipsed by a piece in the Foreign Policy magazine. It calls the ‘bizarre’ ban Russia’s ‘latest policy absurdity’ in line with recent ‘erratic behavior of Russia, the town drunk of the global village’.


Here’s a nice quote from Foreign Policy:


‘If it's Tuesday it's the Kremlin threatening its neighbors with turning off the gas tap or with outright nuclear annihilation – if their policies don't agree with those emanating from Moscow.’


The magazine goes on to explore the strange juxtaposition of actor Gérard Depardieu acquiring Russian citizenship in an exclusive hyped-up goodwill gesture by the Kremlin and the ‘abrupt embargo’ of US adoptions.


Also, the edition relies on statistics to dispel the abuse claims made in the Dima Yakovlev law – 19 deaths out of 60,000 Russian children adopted by American parents over the last two decades, and 1,200 fatalities among children adopted by Russian families.


Russia holds first place in terms of the number of orphans in the world, totaling some 700,000 children. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, 40 percent of those who graduate from orphanages end up as alcohol or drug addicts.


Hopefully, the divisive law will prove to be a wake-up call for the authorities and Russian society, and eventually help to shift the focus from revenge to care.  


Sources:  http://www.foreignpolicy.comhttp://www.washingtonpost.comhttp://www.nytimes.com

Author: Mikhail Vesely

Tags: Dima Yakovlev law Magnitsky Act Novaya Gazeta March Against Scoundrels  

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