Boy in Custody Dispute Takes Sides

Ruslan Baisarov, a Chechen businessman embroiled in a custody dispute with his ex-girlfriend, pop star Kristina Orbakaite, took their 11-year-old son to a news conference Thursday, where the boy announced he would rather live with his father.

“I want to stay here with my dad. My friends and my school are here,” Deni Baisarov repeatedly told journalists at the office of the Argumenty i Fakty newspaper, flanked by his father and lawyer Alexander Dobrovinsky.

Deni, a small blond boy, came across as mature beyond his years. Dressed in a suit, he gave calm, thorough answers to questions, after they were approved by his father and Dobrovinsky.

His father lives in the elite Rublyovka region in western Moscow.

Tatyana Akimtseva, Orbakaite’s lawyer, said afterward that she would contact social services over “the unlawful actions of the father, who is destroying the child’s mental health,” Interfax reported.

The dispute, which has captivated the tabloids, surfaced last week when Orbakaite’s representatives said the father failed to return their son at the end of the summer vacation.

Baisarov filed for custody in the Grozny District Court, which had a preliminary hearing last Monday. Orbakaite has filed a countersuit in Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court, also asking it to rule on alimony. The first hearing will be Sept. 17. Orbakaite’s lawyer said Thursday that she would ask the Grozny court to send the case to Moscow.

Baisarov is on the board of the Moscow Oil and Gas Company, whose chairman is Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

His former partner, Orbakaite, 38, was ranked 26th in Forbes magazine’s list of the best-paid Russian stars last month, with an income of $1.5 million. Her mother, Alla Pugachyova, is Russia’s top pop diva.