The U.S. State Department is countering Russian criticism of how American authorities are handling of case of a 3-year-old adopted boy who died in Texas.
"What is very troubling about this case is that the Russians are making very wild accusations against the (adoptive) parents before they have information," a senior State Department official told CNN. "I think it is irresponsible of the Russians to say the parents did x, y or z before we find out what happened.
In West Texas, the Ector County Medical Examiner's Office is investigating because of the "suspicious" nature of the boy's death, investigator Kim Harrington said.
Russian officials Tuesday met with the boy's unnamed adoptive parents and his surviving brother, also adopted from Russia, after the State Department coordinated the session through Texas Child Protective Services. U.S. officials said.
Meanwhile, a Russian governor halted the foreign adoption of orphans in his region after the boy's death.
"If we know the facts and they are as the Russians claimed, they have every right to be upset just as we would be upset if an American child was adopted in Russia and the same thing happened. But there shouldn't be a rush to judgment when these parents might be in terrible pain over what happened to their son," said the State Department official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the sensitive issue.
The case of the 3-year-old's death has aggravated State Department efforts push through more than 500 adoption cases in which American families have already begun the process to adopt a Russian child before Moscow in December passed a law banning adoptions of Russian children by Americans.
That pending law would ban adoptions by Americans ostensibly because of documented cases of abuse by adoptive parents. But others say the Russian move is in retaliation for a U.S. law that places restrictions on Russian human rights abusers.
"This is a very difficult case for us and the timing couldn't be worse," the State Department official said. "We are trying to revolve the rest of these cases, but having a case like this makes it more difficult."
Officials said, including the death in Texas, 20 of about 60,000 Russian children adopted by Americans in the past two decades have died in the United States.
"We share one hundred percent the Russian concerns about these cases of death and abuse," another senior State Department official said. Acknowledging that 20 Russian children have died with U.S. families, the official added, "We do not disagree this is unacceptable."
State Department officials said they hope to travel to Moscow to discuss the pending adoption cases.
Adoptions halted in one Russian region
The governor of Russia's Pskov region is not waiting for the national ban to take effect, and announced Tuesday that all orphan adoptions to foreigners would be temporarily stopped.
"Another cruel crime against a child was committed in the United States," Pskov Gov. Andrey Turchak said.
The boy was born on January 9, 2010, and died on January 21, said Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's special representative for human rights.
Dolgov said the child suffered injuries to his head and legs, as well as to his abdomen and internal organs. The wounds, he said, "could only be caused by strong blows."
Authorities in Texas have not released such details. But they have offered some specifics.
The child was found unresponsive at his residence and his mother called 911, Ector County Forensic Death Investigator Sondra Woolf said. The boy was transported to the emergency room by the fire department, then pronounced dead by an emergency room doctor, she said.
The body has been sent to Fort Worth for an autopsy, and results could take weeks, she added.
Patrick Crimmins, of Texas Child Protective Services, said his office is investigating allegations including physical abuse and neglectful supervision, or neglect.
Sgt. Gary Duesler, a spokesman for the Ector County Sheriff's Office, said his office also is investigating. No arrests have been made, and officials are waiting for autopsy results, he said.
Governor wants brother sent back to Russia
The boy's death is confirmation of Russia's decision to ban U.S. adoptions, the Pskov governor said.
"We need to do everything and create all necessary conditions for the orphans to find families here in our Pskov region and in Russia," he said.