Vladimir Putin has signed a law that bans Americans from adopting Russian children, according to the Kremlin. Reuters reported on Friday that the law is due to come into force on 1 January.
Soon after the ban was made public, the hashtag #PutinEatsKids started trending on Twitter, with thousands lining up to criticise the Russian president for a policy that will block scores of Russian children from moving to the US, one of the major destinations for the country's orphans, many of whom languish in substandard care provided by the Russian state.
More than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by American parents in the past twenty years, according to US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell.
"The welfare of children is simply too important to be linked to political aspects of our relationship," he said last week.
The move is also likely to garner outrage in Russia, particularly among those working to improve child rights.
The law is a direct reaction to the recently signed Magnitsky Act in the US, which imposes travel and financial sanctions on Russian officials suspected of involvement in the 2009 killing of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was beaten to death in prison after exposing fraud perpetrated by Russian officials.
As well as the adoption ban, the new law in Russia will impose a visa ban and asset freeze on any Americans accused of violating the rights of Russians.
Reported by the Associated Press, the signing of the law follows a particularly vociferous campaign in Russia in which state media portrayed American adoptive parents as corrupt, and even went as far as to suggest that Russian children travelling to the US would be used as sex toys or for the harvesting of organs.
The Russian Orthodox Church, a key ally in Putin’s administration, added to the propaganda, declaring that Russian children raised outside the motherland would not be welcome in the kingdom of God.
According to UNICEF, around 750,000 children are currently living without any parental custody in Russia. Only 18,000 Russians are currently on the waiting list to adopt a child.