MOSCOW -- In what could be good news for a few prospective U.S. parents, a top Kremlin official said Thursday that Russian children whose adoptions had already been approved by a court would be allowed to join their adoptive families in the United States and would not be affected by a ban on such adoptions that President Vladimir Putin signed into law last month.
But the official, Kremlin press secretary Dmitri Peskov, said the ban meant that there would be no new adoptions, and that adoptions that had not been approved in court would be halted. "It is a ban on any new procedures, any new formalities," he said. "Those who have got a decision will be able to leave."
Mr. Peskov added: "There are some children who were in the process, but whose formalities were not completed. Those children will stay here."
Russian officials have said there are 46 children whose adoptions by U.S. families have been partially processed, but that not all of them have court orders.
For Americans, adopting from Russia is an expensive and lengthy process, often costing upward of $50,000 and requiring multiple trips to Russia. The court decree comes late in the process, after parents have been matched with a child, and orphanage workers have begun preparing the child to join a new family. After court approval, there is a 30-day waiting period, and only then can parents return and make final arrangements to take the child to the United States.
The adoption ban was passed by Russia's Parliament in retaliation for a U.S. law aimed at punishing Russian officials accused of human rights abuses, and it left many legal questions unanswered. Official statements in Russia have been contradictory, and many U.S. families have been in limbo, uncertain whether their adoptions will go through.
The ban has proved deeply divisive in Russia; 130,000 people have signed a petition to reverse it, enough to require review by lawmakers. A protest march aimed at legislators and called "The March Against Scoundrels" is planned for Sunday.
Mr. Peskov said Thursday that a bilateral Russian-U.S. agreement regulating adoption by American families that was ratified last year would remain in force until 2014.