Entries in Ban (10)


Russia Bans Former Bush Administration Officials

ThinkStock(MOSCOW) -- Russia slapped sanctions on a pair of former top Bush administration officials, two former commanders of the Guantanamo Bay detention center and 14 other Americans in retaliation for a set of human rights sanctions the Obama administration imposed on a number of Russian citizens on Friday.

In a statement, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it was forced to respond to the American “blackmail,” which it warned would harm U.S.-Russia relations. The Kremlin had prepared a list of over 100 American officials in advance of Friday’s announcement, warning its response would be proportionate to the Obama administration’s actions.

The former officials included on the Russian list are David Addington, then Chief of Staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney, and John Yoo, a former Justice Department lawyer who wrote legal opinions justifying the Bush administration’s controversial policies on detainee interrogation.

Russia said the 14 other Americans, which include judges and officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency, were involved in cases against Russian citizens abroad. They included those involved in the capture and conviction of Viktor Bout, a notorious Russian arms trafficker who was the inspiration for Nicholas Cage’s character in the movie Lord of War. Russia has insisted that Bout is an innocent businessman.

The Russian move comes after the Obama administration sanctioned 18 Russians on Friday, plus an untold number of others in a classified annex, on the so-called Magnitsky List. The list, named for whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died under mysterious circumstances in 2009 after uncovering massive fraud, was mandated by Congressional legislation in December. Just weeks later, Russia passed a retaliatory bill that included a controversial ban on adoptions to the United States.

The American list included 16 Russians allegedly involved in Magnitsky’s detention and death as well as two Chechens accused of abuses.

The tit-for-tat sanctions come at a delicate time in U.S.-Russian relations. Ties have been strained over the past year, but Washington is trying to convince Russia to drop its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as the conflict there rages on. Both sides are also trying to tee up an agreement on key issues before a meeting between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in June.

To that end, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon arrives in Moscow on Sunday for a two day visit to discuss prospects for further nuclear arms cuts and NATO’s missile defense plans. The United States insists that plan, which places interceptor missiles in Eastern Europe, is aimed at countering the threat from Iran. Russia says the system degrades its own nuclear deterrent capability.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Blind Teen Stands Up to Putin on Adoption Ban

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — A blind Russian teenager’s withering, at times sarcastic, criticism of the country’s new ban on adoptions to the United States has garnered a lot of attention in Russian media, and even from the Kremlin.

In a Jan. 6 blog post, addressed to President Vladimir Putin, Natasha Pisarenko asked what will be done for disabled Russian children now that they cannot be adopted by Americans. She slammed the dismal state of Russia’s orphanages and medical care, using her own life as an example.

Pisarenko was born blind, she explains, and even though her father recognized it almost instantly it took doctors three months to identify it, and it took German doctors to make a proper diagnosis. Now she plans to have surgery in the United States that could restore her sight.

In perhaps a sign of how sensitive the Kremlin is to the outrage surrounding the adoption ban, Putin’s spokesman Dmitri Peskov said, “Of course we will pay attention to such a statement. This girl is well known to us. She’s known by the regional authorities and by the health ministry.”

The adoption ban was a late amendment to a bill retaliating for America passing the so-called Magnitsky Act, a set of human rights sanctions that President Obama signed into law in December. The U.S. law was named after an anti-corruption lawyer who died in prison after he uncovered evidence of massive fraud. The act freezes the assets and visas of Russian officials accused of human rights abuse.

Russia is one of the most popular countries for Americans seeking to adopt overseas. Americans have adopted over 60,000 Russian children since the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to the State Department, but Russian officials have pointed to the cases of 19 Russian children who died after being adopted by Americans.

When the ban went into effect on Jan. 1, it left 52 orphans in legal limbo. Their adoptions to the United States had been approved by a court, but they had not yet received papers to leave the country. Russian officials have said some of them will still be allowed to leave, but have not said which ones or how many.

A majority of Russians supported the ban in a December poll by the Public Opinion Foundation, but thousands took to the streets of Moscow on Sunday to protest the measure. They chanted “Hands off our children” and hoisted signs with the photos of lawmakers who voted for the ban with “Shame” written across their faces.

Russia’s state-owned news channels, however, dismissed the large protest, accusing participants of promoting the sale of children abroad. One presenter said children were many times more likely to be killed in the United States than in Russia.

On Monday a petition with over 100,000 signatures asking lawmakers to overturn the ban was dismissed by a committee in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, according to RIA Novosti.

Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodents said on Monday that approximately 128,000 of Russia’s estimated 650,000 orphans were waiting for adoption, yet only 18,000 Russian families had applied to adopt children.

Last week, Maxim Kargopoltsev, a 14-year-old orphan due to be adopted by an American couple he had known for years, made headlines when he was reported to have penned a letter to Putin and to lawmakers asking for the ban to be overturned. Later reports, quoting his orphanage director, said there was no letter.

The next day, however, the regional governor visited Maxim and vowed to look after him. He also took him to buy the cellphone of his choice. The boy was quoted later saying he still hoped to be adopted by the Americans.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Russian Opposition to Protest Ban on US Adoptions

Creatas/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Not everyone in Russia agrees with the country's new ban on adoptions to the United States.

Russia's opposition is siding with the American families affected by the ban, and is planning to protest the law in Moscow. Municipal officials have approved a demonstration in the city center for up to 20,000 people on Sunday.

Late last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the ban into law -- part of Russia's retaliation for a set of human rights sanctions signed by President Obama in December.

Americans have adopted 60,000 Russian orphans over the past 20 years. Russian officials, however, point to the cases of 19 children who died after being adopted.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio 


Russia's Ban on Adoptions to the US Moving Forward

Hemera/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Russia took one step closer to cutting off adoptions by American families Friday.

The lower house of parliament approved a bill that would ban adoptions to the U.S. It was an amendment to a broader measure retaliating for human rights sanctions signed by President Obama a week ago. It also slaps reciprocal sanctions on what they deem to be American human rights abusers.

The ban still requires approval from the upper house of parliament and President Putin's signature before it becomes law. But so far, Putin has shown no sign of blocking it.

On Thursday Putin dodged repeated questions about the ban, saying he had to read the text before opining (for the record, the language of the ban is two sentences long).

Meanwhile, Russian human rights activists have cried foul, saying this plays politics with the lives of orphans. Even Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, usually staunchly anti-American, said the ban is "wrong."

Activists have protested outside the parliament all week, but the measure has strong support from patriotic elements of Russian society, including leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russia's children's ombudsman.

Putin did, however, point out some wiggle room during Thursday's press conference.

The newly minted U.S.-Russia agreement on adoptions requires a one year notice if one side wants to withdraw -- meaning that even if the ban is approved now, it's possible that adoptions could still continue for a year, which is plenty of time to reverse the decision if the Kremlin wants to.

The U.S. Ambassador to Russia, however, issued a statement Friday condemning the lower house's actions.

"If it becomes law, the legislation passed today will needlessly remove the path to families for hundreds of Russian children each year. The welfare of children is simply too important to be linked to others' issues in our bilateral relationship," Michael McFaul said.

Russia is typically the third most popular place for Americans to adopt. The U.S. Embassy there says 60,000 children have been adopted by American parents since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Russian lawmakers, who are seething about the U.S. sanctions, want blood, and are seizing on popular anger (stoked by Kremlin statements and state-run media) over the death of 19 Russian-adopted children over the years and what they believe are lenient sentences issued to parents accused of abusing adopted Russians.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Russian Adoption Ban Proposal Draws Criticism

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — Russian lawmakers still appear prepared to introduce a measure that would cut off adoptions of children from Russia to the United States, even as criticism of the move mounts from unexpected corners.

Russia’s human rights community cried foul, accusing the ban’s authors of playing politics with the lives of orphans. The issue also appeared to drive a rare wedge between top Russian officials and members of the ruling United Russia party, which proposed the ban.

The measure in question is a proposed amendment to a bill that retaliates for the Magnitsky Act in the U.S., which imposes sanctions on Russian human rights offenders; President Obama signed it into law on Friday.  The Russian bill is expected to be introduced on Wednesday and the entire package could be approved by the end of the month.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov slammed the proposed amendment, calling it “wrong” and adding that international adoption was a legal right. He called on lawmakers to come to a “reasonable decision.”

The Foreign Ministry piled on from its Twitter account, saying, “A law banning adoption is akin to examples in Russian history when it was easier to ban everything rather than tackle unlawful actions.”

Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhav, however, spoke in favor of an adoption ban, saying it should have happened years ago.

Astakhav has led the Russian government’s effort to demand access to Russian children it believes are mistreated in the United States. Last summer he showed up unannounced at a Montana ranch for troubled adopted children with a Russian camera crew, demanding access to what he called discarded children.

Russia’s human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin disagreed, calling the proposal “shameless.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Turkey Expels Israel Ambassador Over Flotilla Incident; UN Report Released

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstoc(NEW YORK) -- Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel deteriorated further on Friday as Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador.

The expulsion comes on the same day as the release of a United Nations report on the May 31, 2010 flotilla incident which left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead. The activists were aboard the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara which was among a group of six vessels carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza. The vessel was stopped by Israeli military who fired live rounds into the ship killing the nine activists.

According to BBC News, the U.N. Secretary General's Panel of Inquiry completed the report in July but its release was delayed while the two governments attempted to repair their relationship. One of the recommendations by the U.N. panel was for Israel to pay compensation and issue an apology for the deaths. During discussions with Turkey, Israel agreed to the compensation but refused to issue a full apology. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that his country was ending its friendship with Israel.

The report, which was leaked to the New York Times, states that, "the flotilla acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade. The majority of the flotilla participants had no violent intentions, but there exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers." 

The panel chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, however, found Israel's response to be excessive and unacceptable after forensic evidence showed some were shot multiple times and at close range. The panel stated that future humanitarian missions to Gaza should be undertaken after consultation with the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

"The secretary general's idea was to help bring these two countries back together again. He deeply regrets the fact that this has not been possible through this report," said deputy UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey, according to BBC News.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Saudi Women Arrested for Defying Driving Ban

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(RIYADH, Saudi Arabia) -- Five Saudi women who dared to break the driving ban by getting behind the wheel were arrested for a few hours and then released by the Kingdom's muttawas, or religious police, in the Red Sea coast city of Jeddah.

To gain their release, the women, along with their legal male guardians, had to sign a pledge declaring they would not drive again.

In what is being described as "dramatic" night time raids, police detained one of the women as she was driving in the city. She was reportedly surrounded by four police cars and taken into custody.

According to a conservative Saudi news website, her car was also confiscated. The other four were first accused of defying the ban and then arrested.

Galvanized by the recent revolutions in the Arab world, the organization Saudi Women for Driving, a coalition of leading Saudi women's rights activists, released a statement that read, "The Saudi police decided to wait a few weeks before cracking down in the hope that international attention on the ban on women driving would subside."

The law in the Kingdom does not actually prohibit women from driving but there are fatwas, or religious edicts, which follow Wahabism, a strict form of Islam that follows the Koran literally and has been in place for centuries. It is the muttawas who police the streets and enforce those edicts in the country.

It is the first time the muttawas cracked down on women drivers since women's rights campaigner and single mother Manal Al Sharif was arrested for driving in May this year and remained behind bars for nice days. Al Sharif is one of five organizers who set up the Facebook group "Women2Drive" page, launched a nationwide campaign calling on all women across the country to drive on June 17. Dozens of women across the country hit the streets, some documenting their audacious act and posting their videos on YouTube.

The Saudi women have been tirelessly trying to reverse these laws to enable women to drive so that they can have more freedom and no longer have to rely on their male guardians to commute.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Saudi Women Get Behind the Wheel in Protest of Driving Ban

FAYEZ NURELDINE / Getty Images(DUBAI, United Arab Emirates) -- Women in Saudi Arabia openly took a seat behind the wheel Friday in defiance of an official ban on female drivers. Participants say they want to claim the same rights as their male counterparts.

Activists have received inspiration through the "Women2Drive campaign," which was organized through Facebook and publicized on Twitter. Participants have been using the social networks to communicate with one another and to post pictures of themselves behind the wheel.

One Saudi woman, Maha Qahtani, drove in Riyadh Friday with her husband in the passenger seat. "Why no for us and yes for men," asked Qahtani. "It's my right, it's my right and I have to have it." Quhtani said police did not stop her while she drove. Authorities have, however, taken other female drivers into custody.

Such was the case with Manal Al Sharif, who posted a YouTube video of herself driving and was subsequently arrested and detained for more than a week.

The movement has sparked debate among Saudi rulers between reform and conservative values. Meanwhile, participants pledge to continue driving their cause forward until the male-only driving rule is reversed.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Saudi Arabia Bans Protests Amid Recent Demonstrations

Roger L. Wollenberg-Pool/Getty Images(RIYADH, Saudi Arabia) -- Amid all the recent protest demonstrations that have been taking place in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia announced on Saturday that the government has implemented a ban on all protests and marches in the country.

Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry made the announcement, informing the public that any attempts to create public disorder would be met with action from the country’s security forces. The ministry says security forces have been authorized to use all measures necessary to ensure that order is maintained. The ban follows recent protests staged in the kingdom’s eastern province during the month of February.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah recently unveiled a host of benefits for citizens in an apparent attempt to prevent protests from breaking out.

Social unrest caused by protests has been common throughout the Middle East and North Africa regions in recent weeks, highlighted by uprisings in Libya and Egypt.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bahrain to Ban Parents from Choosing 'Improper' Names for Newborns

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DUBAI) -- Members of the Shura Council in Bahrain have voted to amend its child protection law to state that parents could be banned from giving their newborns names found to be "unacceptable" by the government, according to Gulf Daily.  Officials say the law is meant to protect the rights of children who would be ridiculed for having an "improper" name and claim that children would also suffer psychological strain from such names.

Under the new law, Bahraini parents would be required to register their newborn's name with the government.  When the government finds that the child's name is not contradictory to religions or will not cause psychological problems for the child, it will issue a birth certificate stating that the name has been accepted.

The council has not yet discussed whether parents would be sanctioned for choosing names deemed unacceptable or if Bahraini children can make claims against their parents if they are unhappy with their given name, Gulf Daily said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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