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Russia demands Finland clarify diplomat's role in boy's departure


MOSCOW, May 21 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Interior Ministry has demanded a response from Helsinki on whether a Finnish diplomat was performing his duties while helping to illegally take a child out of Russia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov protested to his Finnish counterpart, Alexander Stubb, on May 14 after a 5-year-old boy, Anton Salonen, was illegally taken out of Russia by his Finnish father, Paavo Salonen, with the help of an employee of the Finnish Consulate in St. Petersburg.

Anton was born in Finland and has Finnish citizenship. His mother, Rimma Salonen has double Russian-Finnish citizenship.

"The Russian Embassy in Helsinki has handed a note to the Finnish Foreign Ministry with a request to specify whether a consul of the Finnish consulate in St. Petersburg, who crossed the Russian-Finnish border on May 8 with the child and his father in the trunk of his car with diplomatic plates, was performing his duties," a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Andrei Nesterenko, said on Thursday.

Russia wants to determine "if he [the consul] used his diplomatic privileges and immunity at that moment."

Stubb was quoted as saying by the Finnish News Agency, STT, that Finland would reply to the note "calmly, appropriately and factually."

The spokesman added that Russia is studying the possibility of joining the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The Finnish Consulate in St. Petersburg earlier confirmed that the diplomat who helped to take Anton out of Russia was employed in the embassy at that time, but has since been dismissed.

The Russian side has also demanded a response over statements by Finnish officials, including the foreign minister, expressing support for the diplomat.

Stubb said last week that the Finns had a clear conscience about the case.

He told STT that he did not feel a need to explain his earlier comments to the media.


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