"We have certainly a situation that affects a number of families, we understand that, but it didn’t appear from nowhere,” said Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a brief statement to reporters after the meeting on Capitol Hill.
"It’s because of concerns that were prevailing in Russia about the fate of a number of kids that had been adopted here in the United States and we had problems even identifying the fate,” he said.
A bilateral adoption agreement between the United States and Russia went into effect on November 1, 2012, and was designed to provide greater access for Russian officials to review the treatment of adopted children at the hands of their new American parents.
It was in effect eight weeks before Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law banning all adoptions of Russian children by US parents, a move that outraged and baffled many in America and left several hundred families in the midst of adopting Russian children struggling to understand what prompted the new law and scrambling desperately to complete the process.
In the ensuing weeks, only a handful of American families have been successful.
The Russian message to senators Wednesday was both simple and clear: the adoption agreement wasn’t working.
"The country of Russia has not been able to get all of the information that they need, and I am committed to working with them to see what we can do to re-establish relations,” said US Sen. Mary Landrieu, an adoptive parent and one of the organizers of Wednesday’s meeting.
The adoption ban came just days after US President Barack Obama signed a law that included legislation known as the Magnitsky Act, which provides sanctions against Russian citizens deemed by the US to have violated human rights.
The Magnitsky Act angered many Russian officials, who viewed it as an example of the US inserting itself into Russian matters.
Many in the US see the adoption ban as a retaliatory move in response to the Magnitsky Act.
But Kislyak’s explanation underscores the concerns some Russians have expressed about ongoing abuse by US adoptive parents, and what many in Russia view as a lack of adequate punishment.
In a letter to Landrieu this month, Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's Commissioner for Human Rights, said Russian adoptees have been abused by their American families "on a regular basis lately,” and that inaction on the part of US officials has led to indignation in Russia.
"We cannot accept outrageous cases of lawlessness, when the murderers of Russian children were released directly in the courtroom or when they got away with probation,” Dolgov said.
As for the bilateral agreement, Dolgov said, "The agreement provided for all the necessary mechanisms for this purpose. The only condition required was to use them in a proper and responsible manner. However, in practice we see that the US side is actually sabotaging the provisions of the document.”
Landrieu and other senators in the meeting with Kislyak said they want to find a long-term solution that works in the best interests of hundreds of children in Russian orphanages.
They also said they want to expand the number of American families that are allowed to complete their adoptions. American citizens adopted 962 Russian children in 2011 according to information provided by the US State Department.
"There is an immediate bond that occurs on the part of the parents seeking to adopt and on the part of the adoptive child – many of whom are old enough to know what is going on – and they have been told and seen and have met parents and they have been waiting, some of them two, three years only to have this law in my view passed without due consideration of the humanity of this issue,” said Landrieu.
"We asked the ambassador to particularly think about what might be able to get done in his country that would allow the maximum number of those families to be united through successful adoptions,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, who also took part in the meeting.
Kislyak promised to convey the concerns, but made it clear that any action will be governed by Russian law.
"We live in an environment of the law, and the law will decide how things can be done and cannot be done in Russia,” he said.