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Russian Foreign Ministry intervenes in child foster case

Russia’s Foreign Ministry accuses Finnish officials of harsh measures against Russian families living in Finland, in the aftermath of a case where four children were taken into custody from a Russian woman in Vantaa.

Venäjän lapsiasiainvaltuutettu Pavel Astahov ryöpytti tiistaina suomalaisia menettelytapoja. Image: Yle

The Vantaa case is the latest in a small number of recent custody cases to have enraged Russian officials.

Russia’s children’s ombudsman Pavel Astakhov criticised Finland over the issue on the country’s main TV channels on Saturday. This was not the first time Astakhov protested over Finland’s handling of custody cases involving Russians, and once again his comments made Russian headlines.

Although there may not be many cases where children of Russian or partly Russian families are taken into foster care, or where a Russian mother loses custody of her child in Finland, the Russian media gives the impression that Russian families are persecuted in Finland.  

Russian critics of Finnish practices also draw on a report by the European Commission on Human Rights, which shows that Russian speakers are the minority group most likely to experience racism and xenophobia in Finland.

Welfare officials defend Vantaa case

Speaking on the Vantaa case, children’s ombudsman Astakhov said the children were put in an orphanage and then immediately transferred to a foster family, following "the elder girl's complaint that her father had smacked her bottom".

In Russia, corporal punishment is more widely accepted as a method in upbringing.

Finnish authorities say the move was legally justified, as there were grounds to suspect that the children’s welfare was at risk. The authorities also said that they follow the same guidelines regardless of the child's background, and that nationality did not impact on the decisions.

Russia has rejected the justification, with its Foreign Ministry now accusing Finland of a negative, threatening attitude, and of being unduly harsh on Russian families, to the extent of ruining their lives.

Finnish social welfare authorities have refused to discuss the case with Russian officials, including those of the Russian Embassy.

On Wednesday, an embassy official attended a meeting between city officials and the mother involved. The official attended at the request of the mother.

Minister Guzenina-Richardson steps in

Finland’s Minister of Health and Social Services Maria Guzenina-Richardson defended the welfare officials, saying Finland had strict confidentiality regulations, which was why no information on such cases could be given to outside parties.

Only the families involved could disclose such information, according to Guzenina-Richardson.

Finland’s Foreign Ministry has, however, promised to follow the case of the Vantaa family closely, and to give all possible assistance to the Russian mother.