Russian mom arrested in US on ‘phony pretext’ over custody claim – children’s ombudsman

Embassy of Russia in Washington DC ©
Olga Pimanova, a Russian citizen, has been “held like a hostage” in the US after being arrested at a Chicago airport because her ex-husband claimed she had “abducted” her Russian-born daughter, said ombudsman for children rights Pavel Astakhov.

Pimanova, 30, arrived in Chicago, Illinois, on May 20 to pass her MBA exams, only to be immediately arrested at the airport.  She was taken into custody by Cook County sheriffs acting on a local court order that was issued as a result of her husband filing a case accusing her of kidnapping her own child, which he believes to be his daughter. The mother was placed under house arrest at her friend’s house in Illinois after enduring three days in detention along with criminal suspects, her lawyer says.

Astakhov wrote on his Twitter page that Pimanova “was arrested on a phony pretext and has been held as a hostage, being requested to return the daughter – a Russian citizen – to the USA.” 

The court case involving her 3-year-old daughter, Arianna, came as a total surprise to Pimanova. It turned out to be one of the lingering consequences of her separation from Jorge Castillo, a US citizen.

“I have no reason to think that Pimanova was aware of the court’s decision and, despite the sanctions, she was facing, entered the territory of the USA,” Pimanova’s lawyer, Aleksandr Tolmatsky, told RIA Novosti on Saturday.

Pimanova’s ex-husband failed to notify her that he had filed for divorce in the US in December of 2014, which led to the “unilateral” character of the process, the lawyer said, adding that the court had breached procedural norms.

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“The divorce application was heard in a unilateral, formal way, without any questions being asked by the court pertaining to how she had been notified and why she had not taken part in the process,” Tolmatsky said.

“Pursuant to all internationally recognized laws, as well as to the US federal and Illinois state law, Olga had the right to be notified of what was going on and had the right to take part in the process,” Fedor Kozlov, managing partner at Fedor Kozlov & Associates, said in an interview with RT.

“If Olga wasn’t notified, then Jorge, her husband, will have to provide some justifications in the court as to why he didn’t care enough to notify Olga,” stressed the lawyer. If Castillo really wasn’t aware of his wife’s whereabouts, then he should have notified the Russian consulate, he said, adding that he believes Castillo acted purposefully.

The custody battle over Olga’s daughter, Arianna, who was born in Krasnodar, Russia, when the spouses were already separated, was a direct consequence of that ruling. Although the name of the father is not on Arianna’s birth certificate, which was issued in Russia, Castillo claims he is the father of the child and is accusing Pimanova of literally kidnapping the toddler. He demands that a DNA test be performed in order to prove his fatherhood and insists that it be carried out in the US. This would mean Arianna would need to be brought to America, which is an “unlawful” demand, according to Astakhov. 

“We are going ahead with a struggle for rights of the little three-year-old Russian girl Arianna, who the court of the US state of Illinois demanded, absolutely groundlessly, to bring to the US,” the ombudsman said on Saturday, stressing that the girl “has no relation to US jurisdiction.” She is solely a Russian citizen.

Despite the strained relations between the former spouses, the lawyers are seeking to find a compromise with Castillo by offering to meet his demand that the child’s biological father be determined.

However, the primary condition for the settlement is the annulment of both rulings that are preventing Pimanova from leaving the US and returning home to her little daughter.

“The essence of the case, and the reason why it has attracted so much publicity, is that Olga is now under arrest on completely groundless accusations… and the court expects impossible things from her, namely, the transfer of a [3]-year-old child from Russia to [a US] state court,” Tolmatsky said.

The lawyer considers this particular request absurd, as “Olga is the sole biological parent and stays here [in the US] without right to travel.” Moreover, Arianna is not even a US citizen.

The Russian embassy in Washington has requested detailed information on the circumstances surrounding the case from US authorities, but has received no response so far, Yury Melnik, the Russian Embassy’s press attaché, told RT.

Meanwhile, a US State Department spokesman confirmed on Saturday that the Cook County police had “notified the Russian Consulate of the arrest. We refer you to Cook County authorities for further details,” RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.

The next hearing is scheduled to take place on Monday, according to Tolmatsky. Pimanova’s defense will seek an annulment of the court’s earlier rulings based on violations of procedural norms and also try to have the conditions of her detention softened.