A reporter of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold (Switzerland, SOC), will visit Ukraine from 29 August to 1 September to investigate the alleged disappearance of newborn babies in mysterious circumstances.

German media had reported that two babies born in a clinic in Kharkov at the end of 2002 had been taken away from their mothers a few hours after being born. Medical staff later declared that they had died of complications, but their parents were never given access to their bodies despite repeated requests. Several foetuses and bodies of newborn babies whose organs had been removed were subsequently discovered at the clinic's biological waste site, according to the reports. One Ukrainian NGO believes up to 300 similar disappearances may have occurred between 2001 and 2003.

During her stay in Ukraine, Mrs Vermot-Mangold will visit the clinic accused in Kharkov to speak with staff and the NGO concerned. In Kiev, she will also halve talks with the ministers of interior, of health as well as of family, youth and sport, the General Prosecutor, the ombudsman and NGOs. When addressing PACE in January this year, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko had stressed that he could guarantee that Ukraine would do everything in its power to assist the Council of Europe in the fight against trafficking in human beings, especially of new born babies, and would open the procedures up to transparency. His government would host a PACE mission and assist it wherever possible.

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