Fury in Russia over adopted boy murder

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Adoption photo: Shutterstock
18:50 CEST+02:00
Russian authorities have opened an investigation into the death of five-year-old boy adopted by an Italian family in a move that could jeopardize Italy's position as the leading destination for adopted Russian children.

Maxim Maravalle, whose birth name was Kichigin, died in Pescara last Thursday after allegedly being murdered by his adoptive father, Massimo Maravelle.

The alleged killing has sparked outrage in Russian media and among politicians. It comes just a year after Italy was promoted as a favoured destination for Russian orphans because the country doesn’t allow gay marriage, The Moscow Times reported.

Russian children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov has called for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to personally oversee the investigation. Astakhov, a former celebrity lawyer, led the charge in 2013 for Russia to ban adoptions of its children by US families.

That ban was ostensibly related to the death of Dima Yakovlev, who died in 2008 after being left in a car by his adoptive American father. However, it was widely interpreted as revenge for US sanctions against officials involved in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Since the US ban, Italy has become the main destination for adopted Russian children.

Russian officials have only cited child welfare considerations in their statements about the Maravelle case. However, it comes as the EU, of which Italy holds the rotating presidency, prepares to vote on Tuesday on tougher sanctions against Russia in the wake of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 last week.

The Investigative Committee for the Amur region, where Maxim was born, said on its website that it is probing members of the local government for "negligence in processing the [adoption] documents" and is also looking into the child's living conditions. In what the Moscow Times said was "a sign of the troubling direction the affair could take", the committee is also looking at whether it was legal to send the boy abroad rather than to relatives in Russia.

The boy was reportedly strangled by Maravelle, who suffered from mental health problems that were not disclosed at the time he and his wife, Patrizia Silvestri, underwent the adoption process in 2012, the local Italian news website GE Local Pescara, reported.

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Maravelle has been in custody since Friday.

A few days before the boy’s death Maravelle, who had been receiving treatment since 2006, had been due to meet his psychiatrist, Alessandro Rossi, in a bid to have his medication reduced because he “felt much better”, GE Local Pescara, reported.

Rossi told police that he was left out of the adoption process and was not asked to provide a health certificate on Maravelle’s condition.

A total of 560 Russian children were adopted by families in Italy in 2013, according to a report by Russia's Supreme Court.

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