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France issues arrest warrant for Russian mother of abducted girl


MOSCOW, March 24 (RIA Novosti) - France has issued through Interpol an arrest warrant for the Russian mother of a three-year-old girl kidnapped on Friday, a spokesman for Russia's Interpol told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

Irina Belenkaya has been charged with arranging an attack on her former husband, who had legal custody of Elise in southern France, to abduct her daughter, and if arrested outside Russia could face up to three years in prison.

The girl's French father, Jean-Michel Andre, 51, says his ex-wife and two accomplices snatched Elise on Friday in the town of Arles. The estranged couple has been battling for custody over their daughter for two years.

France has denied reports that Belenkaya and her daughter have already returned to Russia. However, a Russian Interior Ministry source on said on Monday that there is "a 99% chance" that the girl is now in Russia.

"We have operative information showing that the girl and those who kidnapped her in France have arrived in Russia using fraudulent documents," the source said.

"We know which flight they arrived on, and we know who exactly flew to Russia. Investigators are now trying to ascertain whether they were the kidnappers."

He also said that "since Irina Belenkaya is a Russian citizen, her arrest in Russia on France's request is impossible."

Andre was awarded custody by French courts following the couple's divorce in 2007. After his wife left the country taking her daughter with her, a warrant for her arrest was issued by a French court in 2008.

Belenkaya was subsequently awarded custody of Elise by a Russian court in 2008.

Andre hired private detectives to trace his wife and child. He learnt Russian and traveled to Moscow to secretly take his daughter back to France. Following the kidnapping, a Russian court issued a warrant for Andre's arrest.

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