AFP - A Hungarian court decided Wednesday to keep a Russian mother accused of abducting her daughter in jail until France presents an arrest warrant in a bitter international child custody battle.
The municipal court of Budapest said in a statement that it had ordered that Irina Belenkaya be remanded in custody in Hungary until May 25 to give the French authorities time to forward the European arrest warrant.
"If the arrest warrant does not arrive by that date, the court will release her," the statement said.
Belenkaya was stopped by Hungarian police at the weekend as she tried to cross the Hungarian border to Ukraine with her three-year-old daughter Elise.
After being held by police in the town of Nyiregyhaza in eastern Hungary, she was later moved to Budapest. She faces charges of kidnapping and complicity in assault in France.
In the meantime, Elise was reunited with her French father Jean-Michel Andre and the two returned to France on Tuesday.
Elise has been at the centre of a bitter custody battle between her estranged parents. The toddler was abducted by two men and a woman in the southern French city of Arles on March 20.
Her father, who was badly beaten during the kidnapping, later told AFP that the woman -- dressed in black and wearing a wig -- was certainly his estranged wife, from whom he split in 2007.
In Russia, where a court has awarded custody to the mother and where the father is accused of kidnapping the little girl in 2008, the government earlier challenged the decision to send her back to France.
The Russian embassy in Budapest declined to comment on the court decision Wednesday.
Members of the Civic Chamber of Russia, an advisory civil panel close to the Kremlin, called for the toddler to be brought back to Russia and accused France of always backing French citizens in similar cases in the past.
"We will not let the girl live peacefully with her father in France while her mother is in prison," said Sergei Markov, a member of the civic chamber.
"Who says that the child must live in France if she has French citizenship," Anatoly Kucherena, an attorney, told reporters in Moscow. "We will insist that Lisa is repatriated to Russia."
Elise's father struck a conciliatory note Wednesday in an interview to Russia's Ria Novosti news agency saying he wanted his child to have the company of both her parents.
"I would like Elise to have a mother and a fathert so that she can spend some time in France and some time in Russia," he said.
"If I can get guarantees of her well-being there and her return to France at an agreed date, I would be happy to let her go to Russia."