MURMANSK (Sputnik) — Mikhail Mashedo, a resident of Russia's Vladimir region, has been looking for his son for six years, but to no avail.
His partner Darya Itsankova kidnapped the child and, according to some information, took him to territory controlled by Daesh. The last photo of the boy seen by Mikhail showed a thin and tired child without boyish enthusiasm or gleam in his eyes.
Darya and Mikhail met in Murmansk, where they worked in a real estate agency. Darya held one of the executive positions, while Mikhail worked as the manager and lawyer. Today he recalls how the girl attracted him with her sincerity and friendliness.
"We immediately had warm, open relations. She gave an impression of a strong, positive, kind and open person. In 2007, we had a baby even though we had never been officially married," Mikhail told Sputnik.
In 2008, when the financial crisis emerged in the country, Mikhail and his family were going through tough times. He lost his job and had to seize any opportunity, even unlikely ones. Mikhail was eventually offered a job in a construction company in Sochi.
"That’s what we agreed on – I left for Sochi and lived there for a year," Mikhail recalled.
Darya stayed in Murmansk for some time and then moved to the town of Alexandrov in the Vladimir region where his parents lived. Mikhail believes that this move was the turning point in his relationship with Darya — when she became a complete stranger to him.
New Life in Islam
Mikhail’s life in Sochi was going along well – he purchased some property and had promising prospects ahead. However, when Darya sent him a text message saying "Come home, the child needs help, we should live together," Mikhail left everything behind and headed to Alexandrov.
"It was Darya who opened the door. She was a completely different person. She told me straightaway that she was into Islam and that I was no longer attractive for her as a man," Mashedo recalled.
"When I arrived, I saw that she had stopped caring for the dog – she didn’t walk it, didn’t feed it and paid no attention to the animal. She has completely changed," Mikhail said bitterly.
Darya started to wear a hijab and pray. The religious conversion of Darya was completely unexpected for Mikhail, who grew up in a Christian family.
"I realized that I see a totally different person in front of me," David’s father concluded.
Mikhail did not have an exact answer as to why Darya’s consciousness had changed so much. He believes that during his absence, the woman was actively communicating via the Internet with people who influenced her. Then, suddenly, she moved to the home of one of the people she had been talking with, taking their son with her.
Brother Abraham and Sharia Law
"April 1, 2010 — I remember the date because it was Fool’s Day, it seemed so symbolic. I was at work when I received a text message, and the words engraved on my mind – ‘your dog is left at home, go home,’" Mikhail said.
He found out that his former wife did not leave Alexandrov, she moved to the house of a man, whom little David was told to call "Brother Abraham." Mikhail insisted on seeing his son on the weekends.
"I found marks of beatings, scratches and wounds on his head, on his back. He is a very open and sociable boy. He told me what had happened," he said.
"He remembered even minor details – it was hard to believe that it was told by a child. For example, ‘Brother Abraham’ deliberately pushed the boy to hit against the wall, punished him with a stick – beat him on the legs, slapped upside the head. And all that was done with the acquiescence of his mother," Mikhail said.
The father told the guardianship service that the child cried and asked not to give him back to his mother and "Brother Abraham."
Today Mikhail believes that when Darya was invited by the guardianship services for an interview, she feared she may be prosecuted and decided to leave Alexandrov for the Republic of Dagestan.
Kidnapping of David
Four-year-old David stayed with his father. As Mikhail went to work in Moscow, he left the child with his parents. In October 2011, Darya turned up, called Mikhail to say that she was missing her son and asked to meet him.
"I spoke to him and realized that that the boy missed his mother, and I agreed. She came, took the boy for a walk. In a week or two, there was another call with the same request. On November 3, 2011, she took the child for a walk and texted me four hours later, saying something like ‘the child must live with his mother and be brought up by her.’ Her phone number has been unavailable ever since," Mikhail said, recalling the last day he saw David.
Mikhail says that no matter where he goes, he receives only formal replies or no response at all. The children’s rights commissioner in the Vladimir region has promised to send out requests. The Interior Ministry’s Vladimir Region Directorate replied to him saying that "a missing person alert child cannot be issued for David Mashedo since he was accompanied by one of his lawful guardians," while recommending the father to complain to the court in order to settle a way of communicating with his son.
As a lawyer, Mikhail knew that consent of the second parent was needed to take a child abroad, yet this legal hurdle, apparently, was not a real problem for Darya.
"I know that Darya with my son David and her daughter Maryam took a flight from Makhachkala to Turkey in December 2013. I can say how she did it – she gave 400 dollars at the border control. And that’s it. I know it from a source close to operatives, I am in close contact with investigative bodies," Mikhail explained.
According to a source in police, Darya has been on the federal wanted list for several years. Some data shows that even back in Makhachkala where she fled with her children, Darya made contacts with the militants’ wives and members of clandestine networks. In 2012, the Federal Security Services killed William Plotnikov, the presumed father of Darya’s daughter. However, even after his death, Itsankova continued raising funds for terrorists, but this time – from abroad.
Mikhail did not stop his search for his son. When he went to literally all the institutions which could and were ought to help him, Mikhail told everything to RT journalists and wrote a detailed letter to Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov. That’s when he had finally moved forward with his search, Mikhail says.
"There was not much happening until the end of the last week. Now we have a clue – there is information about Maryam’s whereabouts, and we are sure that this is the child that went through the border control with Darya. No tests have been run yet but visually she is just the same person. She is at an orphanage in another country," Mashed explained.
According to him, the girl knows her name, but does not speak Russian. Specialists have to find out under which circumstances the child got into the orphanage, where the girls’ mother and elder brother are.
There Is Still Hope
One of the recent photos posted on a website raising funds for terrorists and recruiting the Russian citizens to Daesh featured a bald-headed boy in a black cap with a Kalashnikov rifle in his hands. It was David Mashedo.
"I would give anything to find out where my son is. He has not been home for six years. I saw a photo taken in 2013 for his passport, he was six and a half back then. He was very thin, he had tired look without gleam in his eyes, unlike other children of his age who are full of lively energy. I did not even recognize him at once, I only understood that it was him after time being. Now I would recognize him, and I am sure he would recognize me" Mikhail said.
Today, his friends and acquaintances who live in different regions and work in different fields are helping Mikhail, but all want to believe that David will come back home.
"All I have to do is to find the boy, and law enforcement forces have to find Darya," Mikhail concluded.