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Russia’s Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova attends a news conference in Moscow on Tuesday. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

A Russian 13-year-old Masha Moskalyova, who was taken from her home and placed in an orphanage after she and her father expressed anti-war sentiments, has left state custody, a top Russian official stated on Telegram.

She was removed from the orphanage by her estranged mother, Olga Sitchikhina, according to Russia’s Children’s Rights Commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, who is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegedly kidnapping Ukrainian children and placing them with Russian families.

Moskalyova had been placed in a juvenile shelter center after her father, Alexey Moskalyov, who was raising Masha alone, was charged with “discrediting the Russian military” and put under house arrest. He was sentenced to two years in prison last Tuesday.

Moskalyov, who pleaded not guilty, was detained in Belarus after failing to turn up at his hearing in the city of Yefremov, his lawyer told CNN Wednesday. As of Thursday, his location is still unknown, his lawyer Vladimir Bilienko told CNN: “We petitioned the court to make a request to the Federal Penitentiary Service, [to find out] where Alexey is.”

Some background: In April 2022, Masha drew a picture of Russian missiles being fired at a Ukrainian family and wrote “No to war” and “Glory to Ukraine” during her art class, according to Russian independent news outlet, Mediazona. Her school subsequently called the police.

Lvova-Belova claimed on Telegram that at first, Masha did not want to leave the orphanage to return to her estranged mother, and her opinion is required by law to be taken into account. “Now her [Masha’s] position has changed — she told me this herself on the phone,” Lvova-Belova claimed. Sitchikhina is currently not limited in parental rights, she added.

Lvova-Belova released photos on her Telegram page, which she says show Masha reuniting with her estranged mother. Bilienko, Her father’s lawyer, dismissed those photos as propaganda from the Children’s Rights Commissioner’s office, and claimed, “this has been orchestrated by the authorities.”

Bilienko previously expressed concerns about the child being handed over to her mother, whom he claims did not show interest in Masha’s life until very recently. “These sweet-looking pictures are designed to convince everyone that maternal instincts have woken up in the girl’s mother,” Bilienko told CNN.

Sitchikhina was quoted in the local government-owned newspaper, Tulskiye Izvestiya, saying that Masha will now live with her. She added that in September, she will resume going to school.

Officials in the city of Yefremov’s Commission on Juveniles previously said that Sitchikhina had not been living with her daughter for more than seven years, noting, “Parent-child relations had been cut, connection with the mother lost, legal guardian takes no interest in the fate of her daughter, deviates from upbringing her,” according to an official court statement from the commission, shared by lawyer Bilienko, who said that the officials have made a “180-degree U-turn” on their position, and that he believes “this was an initiative of higher authorities.”

Previous reporting from CNN’s Mick Krever

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