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Moscow skeptical about U.S. autopsy of Russian boy

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia voiced strong skepticism Saturday 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 in January, 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 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 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 to take part in the U.S. probe.

Children rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, who initially claimed that the boy had been “murdered” by his adoptive parents, tweeted that Russia should “demand convincing proof.”

Pro-Kremlin groups rallied in central Moscow to back the ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children and call for more adoptions by Russian parents. Protesters held signs with pictures of adopted Russian children who died in the U.S. in recent years and wore ribbons in the colors of the Russian flag with slogans demanding Max’s half brother Kirill be returned to Russia.

“Today people are telling us that Maxim supposedly maimed himself to death with a blunt instrument and damaged his own internal organs. That’s a slap in the face of our country and our people,” Irina Bergset, one of the march’s organizers, said in a speech at the rally.

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