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Russian children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov has accused U.S. authorities of holding Russian citizen Olga Pimanova "hostage."

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. court has ordered a Russian woman arrested last month in a child-custody battle that has angered the Kremlin to remain in the United States pending a resolution of the legal dispute, according to her lawyer.

A circuit court in Chicago on June 6 released Olga Pimanova, 30, from house arrest but ordered her to surrender her Russian passport and remain in the country until a decision is made in her clash with her ex-husband over her 3-year-old daughter, lawyer Fedor Kozlov told RFE/RL.

The domestic dispute, which has gone virtually unnoticed in the American media, has become a minor cause celebre in Russia thanks to the Kremlin's official children's rights ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, who has accused U.S. authorities of holding Pimanova "as a hostage."

It is one of several cases in recent years in which top officials in Moscow have accused U.S. authorities of failing to protect the rights of Russian children and families, including in politically charged abuse cases that have strained bilateral relations.

Pimanova was detained by sheriffs in Cook County, Illinois -- where Chicago is located – after arriving by air and booked on May 20 on a charge of indirect civil contempt, according to police records.

Kozlov said the court had previously ruled that Pimanova's ex-husband, Jorge Castillo, is the father of the child and that she must bring the girl back to the United States.

She was arrested upon her arrival in Chicago because "the court found her in violation of the court order because she didn't come back with the daughter. She came back only by herself," Kozlov told RFE/RL.

Crossborder family disputes involving Russians and cases of alleged abuse of adopted Russian children in the United States have become flash points of Kremlin anger in recent years, with officials and state-run media often implying that kids face myriad dangers in the West.

In 2012, Russia passed a law banning adoptions of Russian children by Americans. Officials said the law was prompted by the case of a boy who died in 2008 three months after being adopted from Russia when his American father left him in a sweltering hot car for nine hours.

But critics of the law say it was passed in response to sanctions imposed by the U.S. government related to a brazen tax fraud case and the death of whistle-blowing tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Astakhov said after the June 6 ruling releasing Pimanova from house arrest that he would work with the Russian Foreign Ministry and its embassy in Washington to erase any challenges to her custody of the child.

"A Russian girl cannot be handed over to the United States," Astakhov, a high-profile advocate for the law banning Americans from adopting Russian children that was widely criticized by Western governments and rights activists, wrote in all-caps in a June 6 Instagram post.

He posted a photograph of the girl's Russian birth certificate showing that she was born in the southern city of Krasnodar in January 2013.

Kozlov told RFE/RL that the girl was born in Russia 10 months before Pimanova and Castillo were married.

Julia Bikbova, another attorney for Pimanova, said Castillo had not asserted his parental rights and that her client had not been properly served in the matter.

Jennifer Huston, a lawyer listed for Castillo in the case, did not immediately return a phone message requesting comment.

The Russian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on June 6.

Embassy spokesman Yury Melnik told RFE/RL last week that the embassy "had requested from U.S. authorities official documentation explaining the circumstances of her arrest and the charges she is facing" but that they had yet to receive a reply.

Will Stevens, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, referred RFE/RL "to local authorities on this legal case."

The Cook County Sheriff's Office told RFE/RL in a statement that it had been "asked by the Department of Homeland Security to assist them with this arrest" and that "we are very pleased she has been released from electronic monitoring."

NPR photojournalist David Gilkey is pictured at Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan on May 29.

A journalist for the U.S.-based National Public Radio (NPR) and an Afghan translator have been killed while on assignment in southern Afghanistan.

David Gilkey, an award-winning photographer and video editor, and his translator, Zabihullah Tamanna, were killed on June 5 when the Afghan Army unit they were traveling with came under fire near the town of Marjah in Helmand Province, NPR said.

In a statement, NPR said that two other NPR journalists were traveling with them but were not hurt in the attack.

Zabihullah Tamanna
Zabihullah Tamanna

Michael Oreskes, NPR's senior vice president of news and editorial director, said in a statement that Gilkey had covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"As a man and as a photojournalist, David brought out the humanity of all those around him," Oreskes said.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani called the attack cowardly and "completely against all the principles and values of Islam and humanity, and against all international laws."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the attack was "a grim reminder of the danger that continues to face the Afghan people, the dedication of Afghan national defense and security forces to securing their country, and of the courage of intrepid journalists -- and their interpreters -- who are trying to convey that important story to the rest of the world."

Gilkey, 50, won the prestigious George Polk Award and a national Emmy and in 2015 became the first multimedia journalist to receive the Edward R. Murrow Award.

Tamanna, 38, was a freelancer who had also worked as a photographer and reporter for Xinhua and Turkey's Anadolu News Agency.

Twenty-six journalists have now been killed in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion of the country in 2001, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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