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  Tuesday, September 17, 2019
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The kidnapped three-year-old daughter of a divorced Russian and French couple
The kidnapped three-year-old daughter of a divorced Russian and French couple is believed to be in Russia, an interior ministry spokeswoman for transportation told RIA Novosti on Monday.

The girl's father, Frenchman Jean-Michel Andre, reported that his wife, Irina Belenkaya, along with her two accomplices snatched his daughter on Friday in the town of Arles, southern France. The couple has been in a parental custody battle over the girl, Elise, for two years.

"There is information that the girl is located in Russia," the spokeswoman said.

Another Interior Ministy source said: "We have operative information showing that the girl and those who kidnapped her in France have arrived in Russia using fraudulent documents," adding "We know which flight they arrived on, and we know who exactly flew to Russia. Investigators are now trying to identify if they were the kidnappers."

"Examining the information received from our foreign colleagues and comparing it with the Interior Ministry's information, there is a 99% chance this is Elise," he said.

Both parents have been embroiled in a "tug-of-war" for custody of their daughter. 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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