MOSCOW ó The Kremlin said Thursday that an adoption deal with the U.S. will remain valid until 2014 despite a new Russian law banning the practice, but itís unclear whether it would keep the door open for more adoptions.
Last month, President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, part of a harsh response to a U.S. law targeting Russians deemed to be violating human rights.
Although some top Russian officials including the foreign minister openly opposed the bill, Putin signed it into law in less than 24 hours after receiving it from the parliament, which overwhelmingly passed it.
Putinís spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state RIA Novosti news agency that the adoptions agreement will remain in force until Jan. 1, 2014. Under the agreement, itís valid for a year after one of the parties terminates it, which Russia did on Jan. 1.
Peskovís statement has ended controversy over the term of the agreementís validity. Russian rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov has earlier claimed that the agreement became void on Jan. 1.
The ban on adoptions has sparked an outrage in Russia, where some Kremlin critics compared Putin to King Herod. A protest against the law, expected to draw tens of thousands, is planned in Moscow on Sunday.
Peskov wouldnít specify whether the fact that the agreement will remain valid for another year would allow more adoptions to go ahead. Neither would he comment on whether more than 50 Russian children, who were preparing to join their new families in the U.S. when the ban on adoptions was passed, would be allowed to leave the country.
Russian and U.S. diplomats have been in intense talks over the issue.
In one case that received wide publicity in Russia, some media said 14-year-old Maxim Kargopoltsev, who has long hoped that he would be adopted by a U.S. family, has written a letter to Putin asking him for permission to join his new parents.
Russian state television and RIA Novosti on Thursday interviewed the boy, who said he hadnít written such a letter and would like to stay in Russia. On social networks, Kargopoltsev asked not to be contacted on the issue.
According to U.N. estimates, there are about 740,000 children not in parental custody in Russia, while only 18,000 Russians are now waiting to adopt a child. Russian officials claim that they want to encourage more Russians to adopt Russian orphans.