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Russia: Former Orphanage Director Charged With Child Abuse

St. Petersburg, 25 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Alexander Tsigankov, former director at City Orphanage Number 17, has been waiting trial since his arrest in November 1996 in St. Petersburg's Kresti remand prison.

Tsigankov is charged with beating the children in his care. The charge carries up to ten years in prison. His case has aroused passions in the city's child care community, both among those for him and those against him.

Reports and provable cases of abuses in state orphanages are common. The charges against Tsigankov have attracted attention, however, because, by reputation, he was among the city's outstanding pedagogues, who had transformed his institution into that rare phenomenon, an orphanage that was a pleasant home for its children to live in.

Tsigankov's lawyer, Svetlana Monakhava, claims that powerful interests engineered Tsigankov's arrest because he opposed foreign adoptions He contended that Russian children should stay in Russia. In Monakhava's: "The trade in Russian babies is a lucrative business and Tsigankov got in the 'businessmen's' way because he proved that if orphanages are run by honest people, they can properly take care of children."

But, some child defense advocates are convinced of Tsigankov's guilt. Alexander Rodin, head of the private charity, Come and Help, which assists street children and orphans, says his organization has documented cases of child abuse at Number 17.