COGOLETO, Italy, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Belarus has blocked children from visiting Italy after claiming a 10-year-old girl was kidnapped by an Italian family.
The girl, an orphan who has been given the cover name Maria, was supposed to return to Belarus a week ago after spending the summer with temporary Italian foster parents.
But the parents refused to hand Maria back after she revealed she had been sexually abused by other children in her orphanage in Belarus, the Italian news agency ANSA reports.
Maria and Alessandro Giusti of Cogoleto, near Genoa, have hidden Maria and are defying threats of arrest on kidnapping charges.
They say they want to adopt Maria.
Belarussia's ambassador to Italy, Alexei Skripko, insists Maria must be returned to Belarus. He promises the girl will not be sent back to the orphanage and would be transferred to a "special center" in the capital of Minsk, where her condition would be assessed and she could receive any necessary physical and psychological assistance.