MOSCOW // Thousands of demonstrators in Moscow today protested against a ban on Americans adopting Russian children, saying Vladimir Putin's government had made orphans pawns in a political dispute.
Opponents of the ban gathered in freezing temperatures, some chanting "Shame!" and "Putin is a scoundrel!" or holding banners condemning legislators who backed the law.
The ban has deepened a chill in Russian-US relations in the first year of Mr Putin's new term and compounded the bitterness between his government and opponents. The ban, which took effect on January 1, was rushed through parliament in retaliation for the Magnitsky Act - US legislation that denies visas to Russians accused of human-rights violations and freezes their assets in the United States.
Critics say the ban punishes Russian children instead of the US government, decreasing their chances of getting out of a system of state homes plagued by overcrowding.
Russian politicians have said the ban was justified by the deaths of 19 Russian-born children adopted by American parents in the past decade.
Americans have adopted more than 60,000 Russian children since the 1991 Soviet breakup and the ban has dashed the hopes of hundreds of couples who were in the middle of the process when it took effect.