Grandmother worried she'll lose 3-year-old

MINSK, Belarus, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- A woman in Belarus said even in her "worst nightmares" she couldn't conceive of the government taking her 3-year-old grandson away from her.

The government signaled recently it might take custody of the child, Danil Sannikov, if it determines the grandmother is unable to properly care for him, The New York Times reported.

"Even in my worst nightmares I could not have conceived that this could happen," said the grandmother, Lyutsina Khalip.

Danil's parents were jailed in December for their alleged role in organizing an opposition rally protesting the re-election of President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, who has been called Europe's "last dictator."

Authorities said they are investigating child's status and expect to make a decision by the end of the month.

Danil's parents are Andrei Sannikov, a leading opposition presidential candidate, and Irina Khalip, an investigative journalist.

They are among about two dozen people facing up to 15 years in prison on charges of organizing and participating in the Dec. 19 political rally.

The grandmother said she hasn't heard from her daughter since the day after her arrest, when she received a letter instructing her to take care of Danil.

Khalip said she had an inkling authorities were interested in the child when she went to a detention center to deliver food and clothing to Danil's parents. She said while there she received an urgent call to rush to her grandson's kindergarten.

There, two women from the state's child welfare service met her. Khalip said the women were friendly but their message was clear.

"If you don't have the financial means or the physical means (to care for Danil) don't worry," she said they told her. "The child won't remain alone."


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