Children at centre of care dispute between Russian parents must return to Moscow – judge

Two children at the centre of a care dispute between their estranged Russian parents must return to live with their mother in Moscow, a judge in London has ruled.

The children’s father, a company chief executive, had left Russia and wanted the youngsters, aged 12 and seven, to live with him in London, Mr Justice Williams heard.

Their mother said they had been wrongfully kept in England by their father and should return to their home in Russia.

Mr Justice Williams ruled in favour of the woman after considering arguments at a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

The judge outlined detail of the case in a written ruling published online.

He said the children could not be identified in media reports.

Mr Justice Williams heard that the youngsters had travelled to London for a holiday with their father, who then told their mother he wanted them to stay with him.

She took legal action and asked Mr Justice Williams to order their return to Russia.

The father said he was concerned that the children would be at risk if the war with Ukraine extended into Russia.

He also said he had been publicly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime, and the war, and had left Russia because of his “dissident position”.

The man said he feared there could be “repercussions” for the children.

Lawyers representing the woman said there was no evidence that the war would put children in Moscow at risk, and no evidence that the two youngsters would be “targeted” as a result of their father’s “dissidence”.

Mr Justice Williams concluded that the children would not be at “grave risk” in the Russian capital.

“There is no evidence at all from the father that he is being targeted, or that the children have been the target of anything in Moscow,” said Mr Justice Williams.

“Whilst I accept that there is a generic risk to any individual who opposes the Putin regime, or is a dissident, particularly those who make public that in the news or by attendance at demonstrations, there is nothing which identifies a particular risk to these children arising out of it.

“In relation to the risk of war spilling over to Moscow, that seems to me to be a very, very remote prospect, unless the war were to somehow expand into a general conflagration involving other countries.

“The risk of Moscow being subjected to a military attack which would put the children at risk in any direct way is so remote as to not qualify to amount to a grave risk.”

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