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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

10 Dead Babies Found in Moscow

The bodies of two newborn babies were found this week in Moscow, the latest of 10 babies who apparently have been killed by their mothers in the city since the beginning of the year, Interfax reported Thursday, citing the police.

The body of one baby, believed to be 5 or 6 days old, was found Wednesday in the Moscow River near Lyotnaya Ulitsa in the northwest of the city. Around its neck was an object that appeared to have been used to strangle the baby, the report said. The baby had been dead for four to six days.

The second dead baby was discovered by the landlord of an apartment on Yuzhnobutovskaya Ulitsa in the south of the city, also on Wednesday. It showed no signs of violence and had apparently been abandoned by the tenants, the report said.

The babies were among five newborns who were found dead in the first two weeks of March, Interfax said.

Moscow police were investigating the deaths, according to the report, but when reached by telephone, police said they could provide no information Thursday.

Although it was not clear how many newborn babies are killed each year in Moscow on average, the deaths of 10 in 2 1/2 months can only be alarming.

In all of Russia, police investigate the murders of up to 200 newborns each year, according to a paper written by Farit Safuanov, a senior researcher at the Serbsky Institute of forensic psychiatry.

Boris Altshuler, head of the children's rights organization the Right of the Child, said those most likely to give birth to unwanted babies are teenage mothers and the thousands of women who travel to Moscow from throughout the former Soviet Union to earn a living.

Many women come from Moldova and Ukraine to work in the city's markets. "They are very dependent on their chief who runs the market and they also often have sexual relations with him and in many cases they become pregnant," Altshuler said by telephone. "For whatever reasons giving birth to a baby creates an enormous problem -- they really cannot cope with it."

For many women in Russia, the solution to an unwanted pregnancy is abortion. The Academy of Sciences estimates only one pregnancy in three is carried to full term.

But impoverished women from other former Soviet republics, who are not registered in Moscow, are unlikely to get an abortion, Altshuler said.

"Even if it costs only 1,000 rubles they won't do it. They don't have the money," he said. "It's a crime that there is no place in Moscow where you can go anonymously and get a free abortion.

"If they can't do this, then no one should be surprised that babies are found in the water" he said.

Some women try to abort an unwanted child themselves. "It's really harmful for the child -- they try to kill him -- and in many cases if the child survives, it is born handicapped," he said.

If a woman without registration gives birth to an unwanted child in a maternity hospital, she is likely to abandon the baby there, Altshuler said. It is the unwanted babies born outside a hospital who are at risk of infanticide.

Marina Levina, president of Parents' Bridge, a St. Petersburg organization that works with homeless children, said the problems are similar in the northern capital. Many of women with unwanted pregnancies have no registration and thus are not entitled to free medical care.

Last year, working under a European Union Tacis program, Parents' Bridge surveyed maternity hospitals that accept mothers without registration as well as mothers who use alcohol and drugs and those who are psychologically ill.

"From January to May in just one such hospital, 16 babies were abandoned by their mothers," Levina said Thursday by telephone.

"The staff said that women who take drugs are those that abandon their children," she said. "These children are very hard to care for and cannot just be put in an orphanage -- they need individual care. If they don't get it they die."

Levina said poverty was certainly a factor behind infanticide, but she blamed cultural attitudes.

"History has taught our citizens to value neither their own lives nor that of others," she said. "Women who live in this country also think that the life of a child is worth as little as their own lives."

The punishment for a mother convicted of infanticide is a sentence of up to five years in jail.

"This is murder and any murder must be punished," Altshuler said. "If a baby is found dead in an apartment where the mother left him to die then it is also murder. But we must also find a way to punish authorities who failed to create the conditions to support women who are in this situation."

Altshuler said Right of the Child had sent a list of proposals to improve the lot of newborn babies to President Vladimir Putin on March 7, when the president met with the nation's leading women.

"I hope he will read it and that something will follow," he said.

On Thursday, the government instructed the Labor Ministry to develop a federal program called "The Children of Russia" for 2003-06. The program is to include sections on disabled children, the prevention of neglect and crime among minors, the healthy child, gifted children and orphans, Interfax reported.