U.S. State Department first heard about adoptee's death from Russian diplomats - official

The U.S. State Department first learned about the death in Texas of Maxim Kuzmin, a Russian-born three-year-old boy adopted by an American family, from the Russian Consulate in Houston on Feb. 5, a State Department official said on Wednesday.

"Russian diplomats in Houston called State Department officials on Feb. 5 and asked for help in contacting local authorities to organize a meeting with Maxim's brother. It is from them that Maxim's death became known in the State Department," the official told Interfax, speaking in Russian.

The same day, State Department officials contacted a Texan sheriff, who suggested speaking to the local child protection authority.

"State Department officials did so in the morning on Feb. 6, obtained consent to a meeting between Russian diplomats and Maxim's brother and handed over to them contact details for the child protection office," the official said.

"Russian diplomats in Houston and a Russian diplomat who had arrived from Washington visited Maxim's family and met with the local sheriff and members of staff of the local child protection office early last week. The Russian diplomats expressed satisfaction with the visit. There were no complaints or grievances, nothing but professional interaction and cooperation," the official said.

"The Russian diplomats called State Department representatives in Houston on February 18 to apologize for sensational stories in the Russian media and distance themselves from premature conclusions on the causes of [Maxim's] death and false allegations that the State Department and local authorities had failed to help the Russian side," he said.

The official said the State Department had been contacting Russian diplomats from the time to time afterward, briefing them on new developments.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the head of the Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children, Yelena Mizulina, said U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and Russian Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov were invited to a planned discussion in the State Duma on aspects of adoption in connection with the death of one more Russian child adopted by an American family.

Yet McFaul is not going to attend a planned hearing, an embassy spokesman told Interfax on Wednesday.

Maxim died on Jan. 21. He had been adopted from an orphanage in Pechory, Pskov region, that had another inmate - Dima Yakovlev - adopted by an American couple. The Russian president's commissioner for children's rights, Pavel Astakhov, was the first to make a public announcement about the incident on Feb. 18.

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