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Russia expels Finnish ex-diplomat over custody case

Moscow – A former diplomat at the Finnish Consulate in Russia’s northern city of Saint Petersburg has been declared persona non grata over a child custody case, the Russian foreign ministry said Monday.

In May, Simo Pietilaeinen sparked a diplomatic dispute between Russia and Finland when he smuggled five-year-old Anton Salonen and his Finnish father Paavo Salonen back to Finland in the boot of his diplomatic car.

Under an international treaty on diplomatic relations, vehicles belonging to diplomats may not be stopped or searched by border police.

Finland’s ambassador to Russia Matti Anttonen was summoned to the foreign ministry on Monday and briefed on the incident, the ministry said in a statement.

"He was informed of the declaration of Simo Pietilaeinen as persona non grata for the gross violation of the Russian laws and the Vienna convention on diplomatic and consular relations," the ministry said.

The boy, who has both Russian and Finnish citizenship, has been at the heart of a bitter custody battle since March 2008, when his Russian mother took him back to Russia. A Finnish court later granted custody of Anton to the father.

During a visit to Finland last week, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin clashed with his Finnish counterpart Matti Vanhanen over the case, saying the diplomat’s acts disqualified him from public service.

AFP / Expatica