Astakhov: 'Pedophiles' Want My Resignation Most
Published: March 1, 2013 (Issue # 1748)
Children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov
MOSCOW Ś Theáofficial atáthe center ofáRussia's controversial ban onáU.S. adoptions struck back atácritics Thursday, saying "pedophiles" were his most strident detractors andáthat journalists who accuse him ofádownplaying child abuse ináRussia forápolitical reasons are "either blind or dumb."
Children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov also revealed "new evidence" that he said implicated U.S. parents Laura andáAlan Shatto ináthe death ofátheir adoptive Russian toddler last month.
Astakhov quoted aáTexas police official as saying theádeath ofá3-year-old Max Shatto "doesn't look natural" andáasserted that Alan Shatto had confessed toágiving Max theáantipsychotic drug Risperdal because theáboy was hyperactive andá"refused toáobey" his American parents.
InáAstakhov's retelling, Shatto said Max's behavioral issues were theáresult ofáhis time spent ináan orphanage ináthe Pskov region, as well as "abuse" byáthe Russian representative ofáthe Gladney Center foráAdoption, theáTexas-based agency that arranged his adoption.
It was not immediately clear when or toáwhom theápolice official andáShatto made these comments, which appeared onáthe children ombudsman's website, andáAstakhov did not answer aátelephone request forácomment Thursday evening.
Theáofficial, Sergeant Gary Duesler, spokesman foráthe Ector County Sheriff's Office, has refused toápublicly speculate onáthe cause ofáMax's death andárepeatedly told reporters that theáinvestigation is ongoing, no arrests have been made, andáthe autopsy report is still pending.
Shatto lawyer Michael J. Brown confirmed that Max had been taking doctor-prescribed medication foráhyperactivity but that theáShattos don't believe they had anything toádo with his death onáJan. 21, TheáAssociated Press reported Thursday.
He also denied that theácouple killed their son. TheáShattos "didn't kill anybody," Brown said.
Aáwoman who picked up theáphone atáthe number listed foráthe Gladney Center foráAdoption onáthe government's website hung up immediately after aáreporter asked whether he had indeed reached theáright adoptions agency.
Nobody returned aávoice message later left onáan answering machine atáthe same number.
Astakhov appeared toásave his heaviest ammunition forácritics, who have accused him ofápoliticizing Shatto's death toáshame theáUnited States andájustify theáJan. 1 ban onáU.S. adoptions
"Pedophiles want my resignation most ofáall because nobody has done more toáfight pedophiles than we have," Astakhov declared, adding that he had theásupport ofáPresident Vladimir Putin andáwould not resign, media reported.
Anáonline petition promoted byáveteran opposition leader Boris Nemtsov asking Putin toáfire Astakhov had gathered almost 10,000 signatures as ofáThursday evening.
American parents have adopted about 60,000 Russian children ináthe past two decades. 23 have died, according toáthe provocatively-named government website Adoption-killers.ru, which Astakhov's office launchedáWednesday.
Byácomparison, up toá300 orphans entrusted toáRussian families die every year, according toáState Duma Deputy Yelena Mizulina, head ofáthe Duma's Committee onáFamily, Women andáChildren, Gazeta.ru reported last week.
Such figures have fueled accusations that Astakhov, aáclose Putin ally, is emphasizing U.S. deaths forápolitical reasons, aácharge he denied. "Those who write that Astakhov doesn't talk about theádeaths ofáchildren ináRussiaáŚ my friends, you're either blind or dumb," he said, Interfax reported.
Astakhov also said he was skeptical about bloggers' allegations that organizers ofáa march inásupport ofáthe adoptions ban are recruiting participants with promises ofácash. Theáostensibly grassroots demonstration is scheduled foráSaturday inádowntown Moscow.