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15 May, 2009 13:20

Russia lashes out at Finland over kidnapping

Moscow has filed a formal complaint to Helsinki after Finland's consulate general in St. Petersburg helped a Finnish citizen take his son out of Russia against both the will of his Russian mother and the law.

The Finnish Embassy in Russia has confirmed that the incident took place.

“The father and son tried to leave Russia, but were unable to. In the end, an official from our Consulate General in St. Petersburg decided to help them at his discretion,” Finnish embassy spokesman Thomas Ljubek told Interfax on Friday.

Five-year-old Anton Salonen was taken to Finland by his Finnish father Paavo Salonen on May 9.

On Thursday Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed his protest to his Finnish counterpart Alexander Stubb over the incident.

“In the wake of reports that Finnish citizen Paavo Salonen moved his son Anton, a Russian citizen, outside Russia, a protest was conveyed to Alexander Stubb and explanations demanded from the Finnish side. It was stated that the moving out of a child against the will of his mother, a Russian citizen, was a flagrant violation of Russian law, which implies criminal liability,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement posted on Thursday said.

The man, whose Russian visa had expired, and his child had been in the Finnish Consulate prior to departure.

“All this is a glaring violation of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations which dictates that employees of diplomatic missions strictly observe the legislation of their country of residence. Such actions cannot go without consequences,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The Finnish Consulate General says they do not see any violations in the actions of its employee.

“We haven’t violated anything. We only helped our citizens. We are not going to discuss the situation with the Russian Foreign Ministry. It’s a matter to be negotiated between Russia’s and Finland’s Foreign Ministries. In our opinion, there’s no problem at all,” Consulate General in St. Petersburg Olli Perheentupa told Interfax.

The news agency also reports that Russia’s Embassy in Finland is not taking any actions concerning the issue at the moment.

It should be noted, though, that St. Petersburg police have not received any complaints concerning the “kidnap”, RIA Novosti reports.

Anton Salonen was born in Finland and is considered a Finnish citizen under the country’s law. The Finnish Embassy says taking the child to Russia and giving him Russian citizenship without his father’s consent was illegal.

Anton’s mother took the child to Russia after the divorce and applied for Russian citizenship for him, which was granted. The Russian court later ruled on the invalidity of Anton Salonen's Russian citizenship.

Rimma Salonen insists that a few days later the court overturned the decision and returned Russian citizenship to her son, which gives her a reason to call the incident that happened on April 12 a “kidnapping”, reports Russia’s Fontanka news agency.

“I was holding Anton’s hand when a metal door of the stairwell opened and my husband jumped out. He was wearing a black coat and dark glasses. He snatched the kid as if he was a kitten and dragged him to a nearby Lada belonging to the local private taxi firm. I tried to catch him but I had two heavy suitcases and I was wearing high heels. I caught up to him only near the taxi cab and grabbed his coat strap. He managed to twist out. Then two well-built men jumped out from the bushes and grabbed me by the hands. Two other men were also in the vehicle. I think it’s been planned beforehand and rehearsed and worked out. I started screaming ‘Kind people, help me, don’t let them take my son away!’, but the street was empty except for two old women, who were standing still,” Rimma Salonen told Fontanka.

Mrs. Salonen now intends to go to Moscow to meet her lawyer to further fight for her son.

ITAR TASS reports that the Finnish Consulate does not have detailed information on the divorce of Anton’s parents. However, the head of the Embassy’s Consular department Pasi Tuominen told Interfax that “it was illegal from the mother’s part not to return the child to his father back in March 2008, during his stay in St. Petersburg.”

This is not the first time a child born to parents of different nationalities has been at the center of an international row. The most recent case took place in March, concerning three-year-old girl Elise Andre.

The little girl was repeatedly snatched back-and-forth in a tug-of-war between her French father and Russian mother. To date she has been kidnapped three times.