MOSCOW -- The Russian mother of two young boys who were adopted by a Texas couple requested on Wednesday that the younger child be returned to her, after his brother died under unclear circumstances in a case that has given new impetus to a long-running controversy over foreign adoptions.
The older boy, Max Shatto, 3, died in a West Texas hospital in late January. His birth mother, Yulia A. Kuzmina, pleaded with President Vladimir V. Putin in a letter on Wednesday to restore her parental rights concerning the younger boy, Kirill, 2.
Russian social services officers took the children away from Ms. Kuzmina in 2011, when Kirill was an infant, saying that she was unfit to raise them because of alcohol addiction. The American couple, Alan and Laura Shatto of Gardendale, Tex., adopted the two boys from a Russian orphanage late last year. Texas officials have received complaints that Max was physically abused and are investigating his death.
"I am the birth mother of Maksim Kuzmin, murdered in the United States by his adoptive family, the Shattos," Ms. Kuzmina wrote, referring to Max by his pre-adoptive Russian name. "These people have my second son. I accept my guilt before the children, have found work and have the ability to provide for the child. Help me please, don't allow the death of my second child, Kirill."
The case has revived an aggressive campaign in Russia to curb adoptions by foreigners, and particularly by American families. The country banned adoptions of Russian orphans by Americans in late December. Opponents criticized the move, saying Russian authorities were using children for political leverage during a period of tense relations with the United States.
Russian investigators say Ms. Shatto beat Max to death, and count him as one of 20 Russian children who were adopted by American families and then died over the past 20 years. On Wednesday, Russia's chief investigator said he had opened 11 criminal cases in Russian courts against American parents who were acquitted by American courts in connection with such deaths.
In an interview on Russian state television Wednesday, Ms. Kuzmina said she was returning home from a store with sweets for the children in 2011 when she learned that social services had taken Maksim and Kirill away.
"I am guilty for everything that has happened," she said through tears during the interview. "Now I want to take him back."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.