President Vladimir Putin has signed a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, abruptly terminating the prospects for more than 50 youngsters preparing to join new families and sparking critics to liken him to King Herod.
The move is part of a harsh response to a US law targeting Russians deemed to be human rights violators.
Although some top Russian officials including the foreign minister openly opposed the bill, Putin signed it yesterday less than 24 hours after receiving it from parliament, where it passed both houses overwhelmingly.
The law also calls for the closure of non-governmental organisations receiving American funding if their activities are classified as political -- a broad definition many fear could be used to close any NGO that offends the Kremlin.
The law takes effect on January 1, the Kremlin said.
Children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said 52 children who were in the pipeline for US adoption would remain in Russia.
The ban is in response to a measure signed into law by President Barack Obama this month that calls for sanctions against Russians assessed to be human rights violators.
That stems from the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested after accusing officials of a $230m (¤174m) tax fraud.
He was repeatedly denied medical treatment and died in jail in 2009.