1,700 children live in Moscow region orphanages, over 22,000 have already found families – Astakhov

File Photo of Russian Orphans with Mr. and Mrs. Dmitry Medvedev

(Interfax – DUBNA, Moscow region, July 23, 2013) The number of children who live in orphanages in the Moscow region has decreased by more than 22,000 in the past year, Russian children’s rights commissioner Pavel Astakhov said.

“Whereas there were 124,000 orphans in Russia in 2008, last year this figure stood at 74,700. It was an almost 50% reduction. Of them, 24,402 children, or one third of children left without parental care, lived here, in the Moscow region. It was a really huge social burden! But the regional authorities had the courage the tackle this problem,” Astakhov said at a ceremony to close an orphanage in the town of Dubna in the Moscow region on Tuesday.

Just 1,700 children still live in orphanages in the Moscow region, he said.

“The other [former orphans] live in families,” he said.

More than 100 disabled children whom American families wanted to adopt have already been transferred to Russian families, Astakhov said.

“We received a list with the names of 259 children whom Americans wanted to adopt from the U.S. Department of State. We examined this list and found out that 116 of these children had been living in families for a long time, and it was simply impossible to take them away from their families as an exception. The Americans agreed with that,” Astakhov told journalists.

In the past three months, families living in the Moscow region alone have adopted as many disabled children as were adopted by foreign citizens from across Russia last year, he said.

“It is an example of how correctly formulated and launched programs encourage our people [to adopt orphans]. Our people have as big a heart as Americans and all other foreigners,” Astakhov said.

When the Russian authorities banned Americans from adopting children from Russia, some people said that they would be ready to pay $50,000 to Russian families willing to adopt these orphans, he said.

“More than 100 of these children have already been transferred to families. These people can now start to pay. But they are keeping silent. They only sought to attract publicity,” he said.

The Moscow region’s acting Governor Andrei Vorobyev said that the regional government had increased the financial benefits for adoptive parents from 13,000 to 25,000 rubles.

Astakhov’s press service told Interfax earlier that at the beginning of June, the U.S. Department of State asked the Russian authorities to permit the adoption of 259 Russian children by American families as an exception.

“This list was found incorrect because, according to the Education and Science Ministry, almost one half of these children had already been transferred to Russian families,” Astakhov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on December 28, 2012, dubbed the Dima Yakovlev Law, in retaliation to the Magnitsky Act passed in the United States.

The Dima Yakovlev Law banned American adoptions of Russian children and signaled Russia’s withdrawal from the Russian-American agreement on cooperation in child adoptions, signed in Washington on July 13, 2011.

[featured image is file photo of Russian orphans with politician and his wife]