The public is deeply concerned about the fate of the son of Belarusian political prisoners. Human rights activists believe that the child shouldn't become a hostage in the political dispute of adults.
Little Daniil, the son of ex-presidential hopeful Andrei Sannikov and his wife, prominent journalist Irina Khalip, is only three years old. His parents were arrested in Minsk during the opposition's December 19 protest rally. They have since been held in pre-trial detention on suspicion of "inciting mass disorder". If found guilty, they could face up to 15 years in prison.
Since his parents' detention, the little boy has been with his grandparents and while state security officers deal with his mum and dad, child protection services have concerned themselves with the boy's affairs. Namely, officers came to the boy's kindergarten and informed his bewildered grandmother Lutsina Khalip that she has to formalize her custody over the child.
If Lutsina Khalip wants her grandson to remain with her, she has a month to comply with all necessary requirements. This includes undergoing a medical exam and providing proof that she's never been subject to any criminal investigation, as well as satisfy child protection services that Daniil will have satisfactory living conditions while his parents are in detention.
However, lawyer Andrei Postunets believes that such heightened concern for the child of opposition activists has other roots:
"Note that the child has a grandmother and a grandfather, who looked after this boy, he reminds. So any attempts to put him into state guardianship, which the authorities are denying incidentally, certainly looks a lot like the desire to obtain one more instrument for exerting pressure on the arrested parents, "warns the legal expert.
If the current government of Belarus doesn't want this story to become a dark stain on its reputation, it should probably tread more carefully here, the lawyer believes:
"At the moment, child protection services deny any attempts to take the child away, which makes appealing their decision pretty hard. It's probably a good thing that the situation hasn't taken a different turn," Postunets explains.
The government has confirmed that it is looking into taking Sannikov and Khalip's son into their guardianship. A local official by the name of Antonina Drugakova has said that "the government is compelled to respond if a child is left without his parents' care", citing "an official message from the KGB pre-trial detention center" about Daniil.
According to Drugakova, child protection services are providing all possible assistance to Irina Khalip and have no aspiration to take the child away from his closest family.
Yet since caring officials started to frequent the boy's kindergarten, his grandmother has decided against taking him there.