The child, Max Shatto, was born in northwestern Russia and lived in the same orphanage in the city of Pskov as Chase Harrison, who was adopted by a Virginia couple and died at the age of 21 months after his father left him in a hot car in July 2008.
The Russian law banning American adoptions, enacted in December, was named after him as the Dima Yakovlev law, the name Chase was given at birth.
Pavel Astakhov, Russia's children's ombudsman and fervent opponent of foreign adoptions, told reporters Monday evening that Maxim had been beaten and given heavy psychiatric drugs. Konstantin Dolgov, the Foreign Ministry's human rights officer, said he had died Jan. 21 "after being cruelly treated."
By Tuesday morning, Russia's top investigatory agency was demanding a role in the inquiry, the governor of Pskov was insisting that the U.S. family return Max's 2-year-old brother to Russia and a legislator was calling for a stop to the last few American adoptions underway.
"U.S. kills children" was the top trending hashtag on Twitter here.
The U.S. Embassy responded Tuesday afternoon, tweeting that the "State Department and local authorities have been working closely with the Russian Consulate in Houston for weeks."
In other tweets,
But conclusions have already been drawn.
"A savage crime has been committed in America once again," Pskov Gov. Andrei Turchak said in a statement distributed by his press service. "Its victim was a child adopted from our region - Maxim Kuzmin. He died before the ambulance arrived. It was painful for us to hear this news."
He said adoptions of any kind would be stopped in Pskov for now and that efforts were being made to return Maxim's younger brother, Kirill, to Pskov, where local families were ready to provide him a home.
"Kirill cannot stay in the U.S. any longer," Turchak said. "The child will simply change hands. It will traumatize the child even more. He is not a dog or a car."
Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for Texas Child Protective Services, told the Associated Press that the Ector County Sheriff's Office was investigating whether Max had been abused. The sheriff's office said investigators were awaiting an autopsy report.
The child's parents were identified as Alan and Laura Shatto, of Gardendale, Texas, a small community outside Midland, close to the southeastern tip of New Mexico.
At a telephone number listed for Shattos, a voicemail message Tuesday said they had no comment.
Sondra Woolf, an investigator for the Ector County medical examiner, said she had been called to the emergency room at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, late afternoon on Jan. 21, to investigate the toddler's death. She said she was not sure what his condition had been upon arrival, but she believed the emergency room staff had worked to try to save or revive him before she got there, adding, "I don't think they would if there wasn't some kind of hope."
Woolf said she was not allowed to discuss her impression of the toddler's condition that day, adding that because the child was under 6 and the cause of death was unknown, the medical examiner had ordered an autopsy, which will take six to 12 weeks. She said she had seen the Shattos that day, adding, "I'm sure that they were grieving, as most parents would, appropriately."
Woolf added that she believed the Shattos also have another child adopted from Russia.
Russia's Investigative Committee said it was opening a murder case in absentia against Laura Shatto, according to its spokesman, Vladimir Markin.
He told the Interfax news agency that Russian officials would ask to join the U.S. investigation and would take "all of the measures needed to prosecute all those involved in this savage crime in accordance with the law."
The death proves, said Sergei Neverov, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament, that Russia was right to ban American adoptions.
And Svetlana Orlova, deputy speaker of the upper house, said even those adoptions approved by courts before the ban went into effect should not be honored.
"Why should we send our children deathwards?" she told Interfax.
Sarah Mraz, director of international programs at Wide Horizons for Children, a Massachusetts-based agency that handles Russian adoptions, said Russia's response to negative adoption outcomes in the United States appears to be rooted in historical animosities between the two countries.
"Obviously this is horrific," she said of Max's the death, "but there does seem to be something acute between the Russian government and press and the U.S. that we don't see in Russian adoptions to France or Italy. . . . Statistically speaking, some adoptions don't work out, period, and statistically speaking some parents abuse their adoptive children."
Typically, countries work together to try to minimize such cases. Between Russia and the United States, however, "There doesn't seem to be a collaborative relationship," she said. "It feels more retaliatory."
About 60,000 Russian children had been adopted by Americans before the ban went into effect Jan. 1, and 20, including Max, have reportedly died. The adoption ban was developed in reaction to the Magnitsky Act enacted by Congress in the fall, which imposes visa restrictions and financial sanctions on Russians connected to human rights abuses.
But as Russian legislators and government officials discussed the proposed law, the conversation took on overtones of wounded national pride, characterized by sentiments that Russia, which should be taking care of its children, was selling them instead to Americans, who were mistreating them.
In Russia, with a population of 143 million, about 2,000 children are killed every year. Tuesday, in a meeting with judges, Astakhov said that more than 89,000 children in Russia had met with violence in 2012, and 2,100 had died.