An impassioned letter by a blind Russian teen has taken the world by storm and caused even the Kremlin to take notice.
High school student Natasha Pisarenko penned an open letter to Vladimir Putin criticizing his recent ban on American adoptions of Russian children, TIME reports. In the Jan. 6 post, Pisarenko highlighted the particular challenges faced by disabled orphans, using her personal story to point out the shortcomings of the Russian healthcare system.
"Children with grave genetic diseases are not adopted by our families, because these children need modern medicine, which in Russia does not exist," she writes, according to TIME.
In the post, Pisarenko explains that she was born blind, a fact that her father identified almost immediately but took Russian doctors three months to recognize, the AP notes. Even then, it was German doctors who made an accurate diagnosis, and doctors in what she sarcastically terms "hostile America" who specifically identified the defective gene. She plans to have surgery in the U.S. that could potentially restore her sight.
Dmitri Peskov, a spokesman for Putin, recently responded directly to Pisarenko's letter, ABC News notes.
"Of course we will pay attention to such a statement," he said. "This girl is well known to us. She’s known by the regional authorities and by the health ministry."
The Kremlin is well aware of the outrage surrounding the adoption ban, which came to a head this past Sunday, when thousands of protestors marched upon Moscow. Personal stories such as Pisarenko's serve to put an individual face on the growing opposition movement.
Critics of the adoption ban, which took effect Jan. 1, characterize the bill as punitive to orphaned children for the sake of making a political point. It was drafted in response to the Magnitsky Act -- a law signed by President Obama in December that prohibits Russian citizens accused of human rights violations from traveling to the United States or owning American property and other assets. As the New York Times notes, the Obama administration had opposed the legislation for fear of diplomatic retaliation.
Russian officials rebuked the Magnistky Act as stirring up anti-Russian sentiment. The Voice of Russia reported at the time that the "Counter-Magnitsky Act," under which the adoption ban is provisioned, was meant to answer the U.S. bill by addressing the mistreatment of Russian children by their adoptive American parents.
According to RIA Novosti, a state-owned Russian international news agency, Americans have adopted more than 45,000 Russian orphans in the period since 1999. Officials claim that at least 19 of those children have died at the hands of their foster parents.