Belarus pressing for 10-yr-old orphan's return from Italy

ROME, September 20 (RIA Novosti) - Belarus will press for the immediate and unconditional return of a Belarusian orphan from Italy after her host family for the summer refused to send her home over safety concerns, a lawyer said Wednesday.

Alessandro Giusto and Maria Chiara Bornacin, a married couple from Genoa, took on 10-year-old Vika Moroz this summer as part of a humanitarian program for children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. But they refused to allow Vika to return to Belarus, claiming she had been repeatedly abused at her orphanage. After an Italian juvenile court ordered that the girl be returned, the couple took her to a secret location, and have been hiding her since.

Attorney Diego Perugini, representing Belarus, said Ambassador Alexei Skripko had spent 13 days in Genoa trying to resolve the situation, but had returned to Rome to decide on what further action could be taken.

On Wednesday, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry handed a note of protest to Italian Ambassador Guglielmo Ardizzone in Minsk demanding "a comprehensive inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the abduction and illegal holding of a Belarusian child by the Italian nationals."

The ministry also highlighted the girl's need for "special medical attention," which it said could only be provided in Belarus.

Giusto and Bornacin reportedly said a checkup in Italy had revealed multiple bruises, burns and other traces of violence on the girl's body. But lawyer Perugini rejected the maltreatment allegations, saying Belarusian officials had produced ample evidence to prove she was given proper care at her orphanage.

Deputy Justice Minister Daniela Melchiorrea and other Italian government officials are trying to resolve the conflict, the lawyer said.