POSTED: 02:45 a.m. HST, Mar 02, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 06:34 a.m. HST, Mar 02, 2013
MOSCOW >> Russia voiced strong skepticism today about the U.S. autopsy on a 3-year-old adopted Russian boy in Texas and demanded further investigation as thousands rallied in Moscow to support the Kremlin ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.
Max Shatto's death, ruled accidental, came a month after Moscow passed a ban on international adoptions in retaliation for a new U.S. law targeting alleged Russian human rights violators. Russian officials have pointed at Max's case to defend the controversial ban, which has drawn strong public criticism.
The boy, born Maxim Kuzmin, died Jan. 21 after his adopted mother, Laura Shatto, told authorities she found him unresponsive outside their home where he had been playing with his younger brother.
Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson and District Attorney Bobby Bland said Friday that four doctors reviewed the autopsy report and agreed that the boy's death was not intentional. Preliminary autopsy results had indicated Max had bruises on several parts of his body, but Bland said Friday that those bruises appeared to be self-inflicted. He also said no drugs were found in Max's system.
Foreign Ministry rights envoy Konstantin Dolgov said Saturday that Moscow "proceeds from the understanding that these are the preliminary results of the investigation" and urged U.S. authorities to produce autopsy documents and the boy's Russian passport.
The Investigative Committee, Russia's top investigative agency, has opened its own probe into the case. It said has sent a formal request to the U.S. to provide the autopsy and other related documents. The committee's spokesman, Vladimir Markin, said it also has urged U.S. authorities to allow Russian investigators take part in the U.S. probe.
Children rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov tweeted that Russia should "demand convincing proof."
Thousands rallied in central Moscow to back the ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children and call for more adoptions by Russian parents. Some demanded that the U.S. authorities send Max's half brother back to Russia.
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on independent Rain TV Saturday that the rally demonstrated that "this problem has been very painful and sensitive for our people." He said that Russian diplomats had taken action to return the boy, but admitted that it would be difficult to achieve because the adoption process was in accordance with Russian law.
Last month, Russia's state-controlled Rossiya TV channel aired a talk show with the boy's biological mother, Yulia Kuzmina, who lost parental custody of Max and half brother Kirill Kuzmin over negligence and serious drinking problems. Kuzmina said during the show that she gave up drinking, had found a job and pledged to fight to get back Kirill. But right after the show, Kuzmina and her boyfriend, who were traveling back from Moscow to their hometown, were taken off the train by police after a drunken brawl.
AP writer Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this report.