Hundreds of human fetuses discovered earlier this week in a forest in Russia’s Urals region were possibly intended for use in scientific research, a local police spokesman said on Wednesday.
Several barrels containing 248 mummified human fetuses, aged 22-26 weeks, were found by local residents in a remote forest gully in Russia’s Urals on Monday. Russian authorities have launched a probe as the circumstances around the incident point out at its likely criminal nature.
“The preliminary data indicates that local hospitals donate embryos and fetuses to a scientific research facility,” Valery Gorelykh said. “There are reasons to believe that the fetuses were dumped in the forest by this facility.”
Embryos and fetuses from miscarriages and abortions are frequently used for stem cell research.
However, the Russian legislation allows women to terminate pregnancy until the 12th week. Later-term abortions can only be performed for medical reasons, if the mother’s life is in danger, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape.
Local health authorities have sent inquiries to all hospitals with maternity wards and facilities specialized in the disposal of biomaterials within a 100-kilometer radius of the dump site.
Investigators said the “scientific” link is just one of several leads they are working on.
Some Russian lawmakers and experts claim that the fetuses could have belonged to a medical facility that practiced illegal abortions or to an organization that conducted illegal medical research.