European official says newborns disappeared in Ukraine

A European organization has urged the Ukraine to investigate the reported disappearance of at least four newborns from a hospital in the eastern part of the country, saying the evidence of baby trafficking was "shameful."

According to the reports, the babies were allegedly stolen to be sold for adoption or to be harvested for organs. The parents were told they were dead, and their requests to see the bodies were denied.

Ukrainian activists say the number of newborns who disappeared from the city between 2001 and 2003 could be in the hundreds, and there are fears that the problem extends beyond Kharkiv. Ukrainians are often targeted by human traffickers because of their poverty and the country's location at the crossroads of Europe. But the victims are more typically young women who work in the sex industry, and reports about newborns being seized shortly after delivery shocked this nation of 48 million. Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, from the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly said she had personally received information about four cases, but feared that the numbers could grow. She said the Council of Europe would insist that all cases are thoroughly investigated, and would monitor the situation. The Prosecutor General's Office confirmed its investigation into the reported cases in Kharkiv remains open, and Vermot-Mangold said prosecutors promised her that "every single case would be re-examined."

The hospital's director, Larisa Nazarenko, said the babies died of complications, and their bodies were buried according to Ukrainian law, which does not require that the parents be given access. Many Ukrainian officials have supported the hospital, saying bureaucratic problems and lack of communication were to blame for igniting the rumors, AP reports.

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