Belarus Government Threatens to Seize 3-Year-Old Son of Opposition Candidate

The Belarus government is threatening to take Danil, the 3-year-old son of an opposition presidential candidate, into custody. The candidate, Andrei Sannikov, and his wife, Irina Khalip, a journalist, have been jailed since December, following a protest against fraud in the presidential elections.

President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for 16 years and has been called ‘Europe’s last dictator,’ according to the January 9 New York Times and the January 11 Times of London

Danil is currently living with his grandmother, 74-year-old Lyutsina Khalip, and does not yet know that both of his parents are in prison: Sannikov and his wife are among two dozen people facing up to 15 years in prison, on charges of organizing and participating in a protest in central Minsk on December 19th, after Lukashenko’s ‘claim of a sweeping victory in elections that independent observers deemed a farce.’ The rally was broken up by police and some 600 people arrested. Sannikov–who was seized from his car while speaking to a Moscow radio station and beaten—his wife, and the organizers are being held at Minsk’s K.G.B. detention center, where they have been denied access to lawyers and contact with family. 

Danil does not know what has happened to his parents, or that representatives from the government’s child welfare service are inquiring as to whether his grandmother is ‘fit’ to take care of him. His grandmother has undergone required medical and psychological testing, and Danil himself has been tested for H.I.V. and syphilis. Danil’s ‘plight may represent a new tactic in the government’s persecution of the opposition, one that harks back to the Stalin era, when the children of so-called enemies of the people were sent to orphanages after their parents went to the gulag,’ said the New York Times

Here in the West, the actions of the Belarus government are hard to imagine. Nonetheless, I can say that I have some sense of what Lyutsina Khalip fears about her grandson. 

A few years ago, the school district that we used to live in strongly urged us to consider a ‘temporary residential placement‘ for our autistic son Charlie, at a facility in the southern part of New Jersey. Charlie was having a number of really challenging behavioral issues, due most of all to his having entered adolescence, his being in a public middle school with 1,800 students, and the tight rigidity of the behavioral program he was in. Charlie’s teacher mentioned such a ‘placement’ during a visit to our house and the behaviorist who oversaw the autism program in our school district assured us that it was just the sort of program she would place her own son in, had she needed to.  But it was not the sort of program we knew was appropriate for Charlie: he has many challenges but we, as his parents, know that he needs to face them with us, in his own home. 

Obviously being strong-armed to place an autistic child in a residential facility by a New Jersey behaviorist is different from what Khalip faces regarding Danil, but to feel someone swooping in to take away one’s own child, is to feel that one lives in an authoritarian regime.

The opposition in Belarus is seeking a new strategy, calling on the European Union to cut contact with the country’s leadership and strengthen non-governmental organizations. And a decision about Danil’s fate is expected at the end of this month.

Photo of the protest rally taken on December 19, 2010, in Minsk, by mb7art.

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jane richmond
jane richmond4 years ago

One way to shut down the opposition!

Hanna Zanina
Hanna Zanina4 years ago

What a shame!

Nancy C.
Nancy C.4 years ago

I count my blessings.

Yvonne S.
Yvonne S.4 years ago

This is not a game and the child should not be used as a toy. The story made me feel sick.

Gail T.
Gail T.4 years ago

Reminiscent of the case of Domenic Johanssen who was taken from his parents over a year ago in Sweden

Past Member 4 years ago

ok...american radicals....did you take notes on what to do when you don't like the outcome of an election???? how sick and just plain can't get any meaner than going after a 3 year old've already imprisoned his parents and now want to remove him from the only home he knows???? they are really busy building that condo in hell just for you and your buds....

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman4 years ago

Noted and thanx:0

Klaus P.
Klaus Peters4 years ago

Sickening, then again, what do you expect of a Stalinist dictatorship. Belarus split from the USSR to have freedom, yet they are the only ones to continue tyranising their people giving them hell and wiping out opposition, sending them to prision; just like Stalin.

Paula Gillis
Paula G.4 years ago

To use a child as a weapon is indescribable. It brings us back to the time of WW II. Mind you it is happening today in Africa and other places where children are pulled nto war. Children should not be weapons of war. And these people claim to be strongly religious and strong to their respective faiths.

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers4 years ago

Another example of a government behaving in an inhumane way. This needs to be brought to the attention of the international community.