New adoption death alarms Russia

Tuesday, 12 July, 2005, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK


Boy crying (generic image)
Foreigners adopt thousands of Russian children each year
Foreigners wishing to adopt Russian children should undergo mandatory parenting courses and psychological testing, the government has said.

The education ministry issued the call after a two-year-old girl became the latest adopted Russian child to meet a suspicious death in the United States.

Viktoria Bazhenova's adoptive mother has been charged with her murder.

At least 14 adopted Russian children have been killed abroad in recent years, according to Moscow officials.

The education ministry questioned the conclusion of Russia's own prosecutors that illegal middlemen had not been involved in the adoption of Viktoria, who was renamed Nina Hilt.

It identified a loophole in legislation allowing adoptions organised without Russian government accreditation.

Foreigners are believed to adopt some 7,000 Russian children each year with Russian families taking roughly the same number.

'Unprepared families'

Peggy Sue Hilt, 33, of Wake Forest, North Carolina, was arrested last week and charged with the second-degree murder of Viktoria.

The death was reported on 2 July in Virginia where the adoptive mother was staying.

An autopsy showed the girl had died from one or more blows to the abdominal area, police said.

Viktoria Bazhenova was adopted in 2003 after being abandoned by her birth mother in the Siberian city of Irkutsk.

The education ministry said it was drafting legislation to "prevent cases of passing children to unprepared families... and reduce the risk of cruel treatment of children".

Viktoria's fate has made newspaper headlines in Russia which already saw a wave of indignation in May when a Chicago court convicted adoptive mother Irma Pavlis of the involuntary manslaughter of a Russian six-year-old, Alexei.