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20,000 protest ban on US adoption of Russian children

The adoption demonstration through Boulevard Ring in the center of Moscow was one of the largest in Russia in months.

Evgeny Feldman/AFP/Getty Images

The adoption demonstration through Boulevard Ring in the center of Moscow was one of the largest in Russia in months.

MOSCOW — About 20,000 people marched through Moscow on Sunday to protest Russia’s new law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, a far bigger number than expected in a sign that outrage over the ban has breathed some life into the dispirited anti-Kremlin opposition movement.

Shouting ‘‘shame on the scum,’’ protesters carried posters of President Vladimir Putin and members of Russia’s Parliament who overwhelmingly voted for the law last month.

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The adoption ban has stoked the anger of the same middle-class urban professionals who swelled the protest ranks last winter, when more than 100,000 people turned out for rallies to demand free elections and an end to Putin’s 12 years in power.

Since Putin began a third presidential term in May, the protests have flagged as the opposition leaders have struggled to provide direction and capitalize on the broad discontent.

Opponents of the adoption ban say it victimizes children to make a political point.

Eager to take advantage of this anger, the anti-Kremlin opposition has played the ban as further evidence that Putin and his Parliament have lost the moral right to rule Russia.

The Kremlin, however, has used the adoption controversy to further its efforts to discredit the opposition as unpatriotic and in the pay of the Americans.

The adoption ban was retaliation for a new US law targeting Russians accused of human rights abuses.

It also addresses long-brewing resentment in Russia over the 60,000 Russian children who have been adopted by Americans in the past two decades, 19 of whom have died.

Cases of Russian children dying or suffering abuse at the hands of their American adoptive parents have been widely publicized in Russia, and the law banning adoptions was called the Dima Yakovlev bill after a toddler who died in 2008 when he was left in a car for hours in excessive heat.

Those opposed to the adoption ban accuse Putin’s government of stoking anti-American sentiments in Russian society in an effort to solidify support among its base, the working-class.

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