A mother faces losing her son, 10, after she locked him alone in the family flat with only dry rice to eat and vanished for eight days with her dog.
Natalya Azarenkova, 31, has been detained by Russian police and the starving boy, named Mikhail, taken to hospital.
His ordeal came to light when he, after four days alone, shouted to neighbours for help in an apartment block in Peredelkino, Moscow.
His door was locked from the outside and he begged them not to call the emergency services because he feared he would be sent to an orphanage and never see his mother again.
Starving Mikhail told how she had left him rice – but no water to cook it – after saying she was going to walk their dog.
During her absence, she appears to have looked after the family’s pet Dzaina while leaving the boy incarcerated home alone in a hell-hole flat with no food or water.
Power and water were cut off in the cockroach-infested apartment – so he could not cook the rice.
Neighbours lowered food and juice to him from a balcony on the flat above, but when his mother did not return the following day, they called in the emergency services fearing for the boy’s life.
This was five days after she disappeared – but she only returned eight days after leaving him.
“I cannot imagine how the child managed to survive five days there,” said neighbour Dmitry who was present when officers forced open the door.
“There are a lot of cockroaches, flies everywhere, an appalling smell.”
It was a “total mess” with no food and electricity and water cut off.
Despite the horror, the boy was devoted to his mother, said locals. His father had died two years ago.
Police detained the mother while walking her dog.
She admitted she had locked him in the flat, claiming she had left enough rice for two days.
She said she had been with friends but in a police interrogation video failed to explain why she had left the boy so long.
The woman said: “I need my son, I want to fix everything.”