Kidnapped Girl Found in Hungary

14 April 2009

A 3-year-old girl who was kidnapped last month while walking with her father in France has been found in Hungary with her Russian mother, police said Monday.

The Russian mother and French father are involved in a custody battle over the child.

The mother and child were detained Sunday afternoon while trying to cross the Hungarian border to Ukraine from the town of Tiszabecs, a Hungarian police spokesman said.

Jean-Michel Andre, pictured shortly after the abduction.

The mother, Irina Belenkaya, was in custody in the city of Nyiregyhaza, 250 kilometers east of Budapest, and her daughter was taken to a nearby children's home, police spokesman Gergely Fulop said.

"This is a success story for the Hungarian police," Fulop said, adding that the mother would likely be handed over to French authorities.

He said the mother and child were detained at the border because a European Union database used when checking travel documents indicated that the mother was wanted in connection with a crime and that the girl had gone missing and was the object of a search.

The father's lawyer said he spoke to his client by telephone on Monday afternoon after he had picked up his daughter at the children's home.

Irina Zvonova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Embassy in Hungary, said a Budapest court would consider whether to send the mother to France on Tuesday, Interfax reported.


Elise Andre, who has dual Russian-French citizenship.

The child was kidnapped on March 20 as she and her father, Jean-Michel Andre, were taking a walk near their home in Arles, southern France. French media reported that two men attacked the father and the child was spirited away. While the parents were in divorce proceedings in 2007, French courts gave the child's custody to the father. The mother took the child to Russia, and the father went there and took her back to Arles.