RENTON—A top Russian official demanded that all child adoptions by U.S. families be frozen Friday after a woman from Tennessee shipped her 7-year-old adopted Russian grandson on a one-way flight back to Moscow all alone.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the actions by the grandmother, Nancy Hansen of Shelbyville, "the last straw" in a string of U.S. adoptions gone wrong, including three in which Russian children had died in the United States. The cases have prompted outrage in Russia, where foreign adoption failures are reported with gusto.
Any possible freeze could affect hundreds of American families. Last year, nearly 1,600 Russian children were adopted in the United States.
The boy, Artyom Savelyev, arrived unaccompanied in Moscow on a United Airlines flight on Thursday from Washington. Social workers sent him to a Moscow hospital on Friday for a health checkup and criticized his adoptive mother for abandoning him.
The Kremlin children's rights office said the boy was carrying a letter from his adoptive mother saying she was returning him due to severe psychological problems.
"This child is mentally unstable. He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues," the letter said. "I was lied to and misled by the Russian Orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability and other issues. ...
"After giving my best to this child, I am sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends, and myself, I no longer wish to parent this child."
The boy was adopted last September from the town of Partizansk in Russia's Far East.
Nancy Hansen, the grandmother, told The Associated Press that she and the boy flew to Washington and she put the child on the plane with the note from her daughter. She vehemently rejected assertions of child abandonment by Russian authorities, saying he was watched over by a United Airlines stewardess and the family paid a man $200 to pick the boy up at the Moscow airport and take him to the Russian Education and Science Ministry.
Speaking from the home in Shelbyville that she shares with her daughter, Nancy Hansen said a social worker checked on the boy in January and reported to Russian authorities that there were no problems. But after that, the grandmother said incidents of hitting, kicking, spitting began to escalate, along with threats.
"He drew a picture of our house burning down and he'll tell anybody that he's going to burn our house down with us in it," she told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "It got to be where you feared for your safety. It was terrible."
Nancy Hansen said she and her daughter, a single mother, went to Russia together to adopt the boy, and she believes information about his behavioral problems was withheld from her daughter.
"The Russian orphanage officials completed lied to her because they wanted to get rid of him," Nancy Hansen said.
She also said the boy was very skinny when they picked him up, and he told them he had been beaten with a broom handle at the orphanage.
Russian state television on Friday showed the child in a yellow jacket holding the hands of two chaperones as he left a police precinct and entered a van bound for a Moscow medical clinic.
The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, said he was "deeply shocked by the news" and "very angry that any family would act so callously toward a child that they had legally adopted."
Anna Orlova, a spokeswoman for Kremlin's Children Rights Commissioner, told The Associated Press that she visited the boy on Friday and he told her that his mother was "bad," "did not love him," and used to pull his hair.
Russian officials said he turned up at the door of the Russian Education and Science Ministry on Thursday afternoon accompanied by a Russian man who handed over the boy and his documents, then left, officials said. The child holds a Russian passport with a U.S. visa that expired April 4, Russian officials said.