Russian actress at center of scandal freed by presidential amnesty

An actress serving time in Russia for an arson offence committed in France has been released from prison and now pledges to continue the bitter custody battle that cost the woman her freedom.

Back in 2006, Zakharova was sentenced to three years in prison in France for arson after she set fire to the flat of her ex-husband with whom she was battling for their young daughter Maria.

When the child was three, Zakharova was deprived of parental rights “for the suffocating love for her daughter,” as the court put it. The actress was given the right to see her child one hour a month.

Now 15-year-old Maria is studying in a closed boarding school where she was sent by her father. The girl has dual nationality – Russian and French. Her mother, however, never lost hope of winning her back.

Once sentenced, Zakharova went back to Russia and avoided visiting France until 2011, when the woman attempted to regain her parental rights in a French court. A Russian court had already restored her maternal rights.

In France Zakharova was arrested before she entered the court room and put into a Paris prison as she still had to serve her sentence for arson. After a Moscow court ruled that the actress should be sent to Russia to do her time, Zakharova was extradited to her homeland.

The amnesty was signed by President Medvedev “out of humanity principles” as Natalia Zakharova has long been gravely ill.

Now the woman promises to continue the fight for her daughter and hopes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will assist her on that.

International divorces have long been a burning issue across Europe, and the children are often the ones to suffer.

In July 2010, Finnish social workers took away 10-year-old Julia Putkonen from her Russian mother after the girl called the children’s welfare service and said the mother did not give her chocolate raisins.

Another incident saw seven-year-old Robert Rantala removed from his Russian mother and Finnish father following his claims at school that he was going to leave for Russia with his mother.

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