Published time: March 02, 2013 18:38
People march during a rally in defence of Russian children in Moscow, March 2, 2013. (RIA Novosti / Alexei Filippov)
Thousands have protested in Moscow to demand a ban on foreign adoptions following the death of Maksim Kuzmin, 3, who died shortly after being adopted by a US family in Texas. Pro-Kremlin activists demanded his brother Kirill be returned to Russia.
According to several estimates by the Russian Mothers public movement, the ‘Protect the Children’ protest gathered 12,000 to 20,000 people. Moscow authorities had only authorized the demonstration to be bigger than 5,000 people.
Protesters marched from Gogolevsky Boulevard to Novopushkinsky Garden in central Moscow, chanting “Children are not goods,” and “Bring Kirill back to his motherland,” referring to the brother of Maksim Kuzmin, who remains in the US with his adoptive father.
Many participants were holding flags and balloons that read “Children’s protection,” and displayed icons and pictures of children. Over 80 public organizations and associations have supported the rally.
The rally came hours after a US coroner revealed the results of the autopsy into Kuzmin’s death. The medical examiner of Ector County, Texas, concluded that Kuzmin’s January 21 death was not intentional. Russia’s Foreign Ministry called the US findings “inconclusive.” Moscow requested documents verifying the investigation amid a separate ongoing Russian inquiry.
An organizer behind the Saturday event said that she did not trust the results of the US autopsy, calling it “American propaganda.”
“I am in favor of a more serious investigation,” Russian Mothers coordinator Irina Bergset told AFP. “It just shows they treat Russian children like cats and dogs.”
The mass demonstration in central Moscow came two months after the ‘Dima Yakovlev law’ was enacted, banning US citizens from adopting Russian children. In January, at least 20,000 Russians marched in Moscow to protest the Kremlin’s ban, which activists dubbed the “law of scoundrels.”
Hundreds of people also marched from Strastnoy Bulvar towards Prospekt Akademika Sakharova in a protest organized by Left Front leader Sergey Udaltsov, who also initiated the ‘March against scoundrels’ rally in January.
Saturday’s ‘March for Muscovites’ Rights’ called for “putting Moscow back under the control of its citizen.” Udaltsov, who is currently under house arrest, was not able to attend the protest, so fellow opposition head Ilya Ponomarev lead the march.
The protesters’ main demands included lowering the cost of utilities and renovating apartment buildings.
Ponomarev said that the Russian opposition should not only demand the government’s resignation, but also take part in protests with “social slogans.”
However, though organizers tried to leave politics out of the rally, protesters paid a tribute to Udaltsov; some in the crowd chanted “Freedom for political prisoners.”
Police said that almost 1,000 people attended the rally, while the Moscow-based Ekho Moskvy radio station put the number at around 2,000. No crimes were committed, and no arrests were made, police said.