Council of Europe official to investigate mysterious disappearance of babies in Ukraine

A delegate from the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly is expected to visit Ukraine next week to investigate the alleged disappearance of newborn babies in mysterious circumstances, the assembly said Friday.

Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold plans to look into media reports that two babies born in a clinic in the city of Kharkiv in 2002 were taken away shortly after their birth, the Strasbourg, France-based parliamentary grouping of Europe's leading human rights body said in a statement.

Several fetuses and bodies of newborn babies whose organs had been removed were subsequently discovered at the clinic's biological waste site, according to the reports.

Medical staff later declared that the infants had died of complications, but their parents were never given access to their bodies despite repeated requests.

Tetiana Zakharova, head of a Ukrainian activist group that investigated the allegations, believes that as many as 300 newborns may have disappeared under similar circumstances from 2001-2003 reports the AP.

"We have been fighting for justice for two and a half years," said Zakharova, chairwoman of the Federation of Families with many children. She said regional prosecutors suspended the investigation into a case opened in late 2002.

Larisa Nazarenko, the head of the clinic in Kharkiv, denied the accusations, saying "not a single fact was proven."

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