Belarusian girl held by Italian family to be repatriated - envoy

ROME, September 27 (RIA Novosti) - A Belarusian girl who has been held in Italy for the past 20 years has been found and will be repatriated soon, the Belarusian ambassador to Italy said Wednesday.

The Italian justice minister said earlier today that police had found the girl whose "family" for the summer vacations had refused to send her back home over safety concerns.

Belarus said earlier it would press for the immediate and unconditional return of the orphan, Vika Moroz, and that it regarded the case as kidnapping.

"The girl will be kept in a safe, well-guarded place, and then will be repatriated," Alexei Skripko said.

Alessandro Giusto and Maria Chiara Bornacin, a married couple from Genoa, took on Vika 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 had been hiding her since.

Giusto and Bornacin have filed for custody, insisting that Vika be given enough time to complete her course of treatment in Italy.

An appeals court is to hear the case on Thursday.

Attorney Diego Perugini, representing Belarus, said September 20 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.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry handed a note of protest to Italian Ambassador Guglielmo Ardizzone in Minsk on the same day, 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.