In retrospect, this probably won’t come as too much of a surprise. Last month we talked about the allegations in Russia regarding American adoptions of Russian children and the supposed “rampant abuse” which follows. As Kim Zigfeld reports, this was apparently not just a one off incident.
One thing you can always count on regarding Vladimir Putin’s Russia: no matter how bad things are today, tomorrow they will be worse.
Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s so-called “child rights ombudsman,” is the new poster child for this truism. On February 18, Astakhov issued a breathless flurry of tweets (Russian-language link) to his more than 100,000 followers about the alleged fate of a Russian adoptee in Texas. He wrote in part:
Urgent! An adoptive mother has killed a three-year-old Russian child in the state of Texas. The murder occurred at the end of January. The boy died before an ambulance called by his mother arrived. According to a report by medical examiners, the boy had numerous injuries.
It was a sensational allegation, and soon it was burning up international newswires. Outraged Russians, convinced they had smoking-gun proof that recent ban on adoptions by American parents had been justified, began calling for a round of crackdowns on evil Americans who murder innocent Russian children in cold blood. Russian parliament even demanded that the U.S. ambassador appear before them to answer for his nation’s misdeeds. Some Russians even demanded that the boy’s brother — who had been adopted by the same family — be returned to Russia.
Well, that’s certainly a shocking story. No wonder the Russians are so upset. Except the story was almost entirely fabricated. As it turns out, nobody knows for sure what happened to the boy, Max Shatto, though an investigation is underway. He was apparently playing with friends on the playground when he collapsed and later died. The “marks” on him which the Russian referenced were likely playground scrapes and cuts that any child gets. Results of an autopsy are pending, but the idea of “murder” being involved seems to be pure fantasy. Still, the tweets went out and the damage is done in terms of Russian – American relations.
We can probably expect to see more of this. After all, this is the same Russia where parliament member Vladimir Zhirinovsky claimed that the recent meteor strike was actually the United States “testing new weapons.” I suppose that whole, “Tear Down This Wall” moment couldn’t last forever, eh?