By Andrei Makhovsky
MINSK -- Belarussian authorities suggested Monday that an Italian couple who concealed a 10-year-old orphan girl to prevent her from being returned to her home country might be allowed to adopt her if they abided by proper procedures.
The girl, identified as Viktoria Moroz, was found by Italian police last week near the northern city of Genoa and flown back to Belarus in response to demands for her return.
"We do not rule out a situation in which this family may be able to adopt Vika," Belarussian Education Minister Alexander Radkov told reporters outside the parliament.
"If they make such a request, the matter will be examined in accordance with accepted legal procedures."
The girl disappeared more than three weeks ago as she was due to return to the orphanage in Belarus.
The Italian family that has hosted her for holidays for the past four years -- Alessandro Giusto and Chiara Bornacin -- believed she had been sexually abused at the orphanage.
The couple sent the girl, known as Maria in Italy, into hiding Sept. 8, prompting Minsk to denounce her "abduction." The case has divided Italian public opinion, with many government officials refusing to become involved, while some politicians and clergy support the couple.
Radkov said Vika was recovering from the turmoil and would eventually return to the orphanage. "She needs now to adapt, to go through a period of recovery," he said.
Belarus was satisfied with actions undertaken by Italian authorities and would soon rescind a moratorium imposed on summer vacations in Italy for children, many from areas affected by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster over the border in Ukraine.
"The situation has been resolved," he said. "We will restore matters, especially as the Italians did everything properly to the letter."
The couple, who describe themselves as the girl's parents, had said they would rather go to prison than allow her to go back to the orphanage at Vileika, north of Minsk.
They said the police action to detain her was "a kidnapping by the state. And the Italian government is responsible."
Belarus denied accusations of abuse at the orphanage and dismissed the couple's claim as "a fantasy invented by an Italian family that wants to have a child."
Some 60,000 Belarussian children have treatment and vacations abroad each year. Vika's foster parents began suspecting she was being abused after she tied up her Barbie dolls and made them kiss each other, saying it was a "game" played at the orphanage.