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Ombudsman's Plans for Orphans Under Fire

Published: January 18, 2013 (Issue # 1742)


MOSCOW Experts sharply criticized childrens ombudsman Pavel Astakhovs proposals Thursday to create an orphan agency and inspect orphanages in Moscow, measures that appeared aimed at addressing concern over orphans welfare in Russia after the country renounced U.S. adoptions.

An agency with that name, explicitly for orphans, thats the end of the world, said Boris Altschuler, head of the childrens rights watchdog Rights of the Child. He said a bureaucracy predicated on the existence of orphans would have little incentive to reduce their numbers.

Astakhov told Izvestia that he supported the creation of an orphan agency, adding at a news conference that the current system involves 19 agencies and is ineffective, Interfax reported.

But while more than 80 percent of Russias 650,000 orphans have living parents, the country would be better off creating an agency to help children stay in their families or find adoptive families, Altschuler said.

The childrens ombudsman also said a thorough inspection of Moscow orphanages in April will see psychologists dispatched to meet children.

This is the equivalent of visiting a prisoner in solitary confinement and asking him How do you like it here? said Alexander Gezalov, head of the Successful Orphans project.

If the government were serious about improving the lives of orphans, it would concentrate on reducing the number living in orphanages, which stunt childrens development and stigmatize them, he said.

About 371,700 children are growing up in state institutions, according to figures that the Russian government presented to the United Nations in 2011.

Addressing confusion about how the adoption ban will be carried out, Astakhov said orphans whose adoption has already been court-sanctioned a total of 40 to 50 children will be allowed to join their new families in the United States.

The other 100 or so pending adoptions will not go forward, he said, a move that struck Gezalov as heartless, given that some orphans have already met their prospective parents.

Astakhov is saying that even if the children have met their adoptive parents, the kids are so stupid that they dont understand whom theyve met, he said.

Orphans are leaving with their American adoptive families on a nearly daily basis, Astakhov said, but according to a report by the BBC Russian Service, not a single Russian orphan has left for the United States in 2013 due to egregious bureaucratic obstruction.

The Kremlin has faced protests and international condemnation over its decision to end U.S. adoptions as of Jan. 1. The government says it is protecting orphans from abuse at the hands of American adoptive parents 19 have died since 1996 while critics have described the law as a cruel nationalist ploy.

U.S. parents have adopted 45,112 Russian children since 1999, including 956 in 2011, according to the State Department.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Tuesday, Jan. 27


Observe the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of Repulsion at 7 p.m. and Rosemarys Baby at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy The Tenant, the cult comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers and Cul-de-sac among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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