MOSCOW - Russia's upper house of parliament unanimously approved a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children in retaliation for human-rights sanctions passed by Congress.
Lawmakers in the Federation Council voted 143-0 zero in favor of the measure, which was passed by the lower chamber last week and now goes to President Vladimir Putin for his signature. Putin has two weeks to decide whether to endorse it, his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, was cited as saying by Interfax.
"We are defending the rights of our citizens and of our children," Svetlana Orlova, deputy speaker of the upper house and a member of the ruling United Russia party, said before the vote. "If countries violate them, we will act."
Ties with the United States have deteriorated after U.S. lawmakers approved a bill this month that imposes a visa ban and asset freeze on Russian officials allegedly linked to the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and other human-rights abuses.
Putin applauded the adoption ban at his annual press conference last week, noting that it couldn't take effect immediately because a treaty between Russia and the U.S. regulating the process requires a year's notice to withdraw.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, who is responsible for social affairs and health, have joined U.S. calls for Russia to drop the ban.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said Dec. 21 that his country was "very concerned" about the initiative. It will "link the fate of orphaned children to unrelated political issues and needlessly remove the path to families for hundreds of Russian children each year," he said.
Putin, who faced unprecedented protests over the past year, also reiterated criticism last week of American efforts to promote democracy in his country and oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Foreign Ministry sought in 2010 to freeze adoptions by U.S. citizens after an American woman returned her adopted Russian son unaccompanied to Moscow and reports of 17 deaths and cases of abuse triggered calls for a ban.
The two countries then signed a treaty tightening oversight of adoptions that came into effect last month.
If the U.S. authorities provide full access to Russian diplomats monitoring the treatment of adopted children from Russia, which isn't happening yet, lawmakers could repeal the ban, said Ruslan Gattarov, a senator from United Russia.