Responding to the proposed adoption ban being considered by Russia, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Wednesday asked the Government there to be guided solely by the best interests of children in determining its policies and actions.
"We ask that the Government of Russia, in its design and development of all efforts to protect children, let the best interests of children - and only their best interests - determine its actions," the UN agency's Executive Director, Anthony Lake, said in a statement.
According to media reports, the Russian Parliament approved a bill Wednesday to ban adoptions of Russian children by United States citizens, sending the measure to President Vladimir Putin, who has voiced support but not yet said if he will sign it.
The ban was reportedly developed in retaliation for a US law punishing Russians accused of violating human rights.
While welcoming the call for improving Russia's child welfare system, UNICEF urged that the current plight of the many Russian children in institutions receives priority attention.
"We encourage the Government to establish a robust national social protection plan to help strengthen Russian families," Lake said. "Alternatives to the institutionalization of children are essential, including permanent foster care, domestic adoption and inter-country adoption."
"All children deserve an environment that promotes their protection and well-being," he added. "Russian children - indeed all children - need to be in protective and loving families or family-like environments."