Copyright 2004

[ October 23rd 2004 ]

Russian politicians have called for new restrictions on adoptions by foreigners after claims that Angelina Jolie, the Hollywood actress, did not follow official procedures when choosing a baby boy. Jolie, 29, who already has an adopted Cambodian son, Maddox, toured several Moscow orphanages last month in search of a child to take home to the United States. She reportedly turned down a number of babies before settling on a seven-month-old boy called Gleb.

The star of Tomb Raider first made inquiries about adopting a Russian child last year during a visit to the country as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Officials say she does not appear to have complied with the rules because she went to orphanages in person during a subsquent visit. Under the regulations, potential foreign parents are supposed to choose a child from a central register, with the help of photographs and detailed medical records. Only then are they allowed to see the child. If they decide not to take that child, they are supposed to go back to the register to continue their search.

Staff at several orphanages confirmed that the actress - accompanied by an official from the education ministry which oversees international adoptions- had dropped in to look at babies. She wanted one of Slavic appearance. News of Jolie’s visits to orphanages has angered nationalists who are opposed to foreign adoptions. They say that the regulations should be tightened. "Right now it’s too easy for foreigners to adopt our children," said Lubov Blizhina, a parliamentary deputy from Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s ultra-nationalist party, the LDPR. "Once the children are taken out of Russia we have no way of checking that they are being well treated. This wave of foreign adoptions, including Jolie’s case, is very suspicious to us."

A Hollywood friend of Jolie said: "She knows from bitter experience that sometimes you have to cut through red tape to save a child and she is more than willing to do that. But she is a wonderful mother for Maddox and I am sure her heart just went out to this child, too." Jolie, who split up last year from her second husband Billy Bob Thornton, the actor, is not the first western celebrity to come to Russia in search of a child. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany adopted a three-year-old orphan from St Petersburg in July. Many Russians welcome such adoptions. One Moscow orphanage official said: "The reality is that foreigners have saved tens of thousands of orphans from a life in state institutions. How can that be a bad thing?"

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