Sunday, 14 March 2010

Custody battle father appeals for Russian citizenship

A Finnish citizen has appealed for Russian citizenship after authorities in Helsinki refused to return his 7-year-old son from a children's home.

Veli-Pekka Rantala has launched an official bid for Russian citizenship after his son Robert was taken away by social services a month ago.

It was alleged that the child's mother, Inga Rantala, had physically abused him and was planning to take him to Russia, RIA Novosti reported.

Repeated appeals to the authorities to return their child have had no impact, even though social services have produced no evidence to support their intervention.

And now Veli-Pekka has acted on his threat to renounce Finland and move his family to Russia if his son - who has dual Russian-Finnish nationality - does not come home.

"My husband went to Helsinki yesterday and wrote an official letter asking the Russian Embassy for citizenship, stating that he is renouncing citizenship in Finland," said Inga, a Russian citizen living in Finland.

Since Robert was taken, he has been allowed one visit with his mother, in which he could speak only Finnish to her. Authorities would not even allow Inga Rantala to visit her son in the hospital last week, where he was being treated for a head injury sustained at the children's home.

Social services have applied to terminate Inga's parental rights over the allegations, and the case is expected to be heard in court no earlier than six months from now.

The conflict got the attention of Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who discussed the matter with his Finnish counterpart Alexander Stubb, and the two agreed that the issue will be better dealt with by children's rights groups. Russia's children's rights commissioner Pavel Astakhov is set to meet with his Finnish counterparts.

Members of Russia's Public Chamber say they will push to grant Veli-Pekka citizenship.

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