A Russian man collecting firewood late in the night during a fishing trip made a discovery of human fetuses in the woods. He found 248 embryos preserved in four 50-litre vats of formaldehyde dumped near the town of Nevyansk in Russia's Urals region.
AP reports that according to police in Sverdlovsk, the fetuses were found a few miles from a highway linking the region's capital Yekaterinburg, with another big city Nizhny Tagil.
It is not certain how long the fetuses estimated at between 12 and 16 weeks gestation had been lying in the forest, but police say they are investigating the circumstances surrounding the dumping of the fetuses. AP reports that family names of the mothers of the fetuses were written on labels attached to the fetuses' arms and legs. According to police, some of the fetuses could be have been delivered ten years ago given the state and dates on the labels.
Police say the fetuses were likely illegally dumped after being used for scientific experimentation, possibly stem cell research.
Reuters reports that a local resident Sergei Tveritinov, told state television: "A friend called at night and said he went fishing and wanted to get some wood for his fire. He ran into some water canisters and wanted to take them home, but when he came closer he saw little baby bodies."
According to the Daily Mail, the man noticed the contents because some of the lids to the vats had popped open when they were dropped and some of the fetuses spilled to the ground.
A spokesman from the regional police said the find was "biological waste" from four nearby medical facilities in Yekaterinburg. Although police believe the fetuses may have come from four local hospitals, the Daily Mail reports Nevyank authorities issued a statement that said: "Our area is too small; we can't have so many stillborns, miscarriages or artificial abortions."
Health authorities have, however, ordered a check of the four local hospitals. The health ministry, in a statement, said: "The rude violation of medical ethics causes indignation. It's inadmissible from both the moral and legal viewpoint."
Reuters reports that the deputy head of the regional government Vladimir Vlasov, said on state television, "It seems the company responsible for disposal of the bio-medical waste did not carry out its duties... All those who are guilty of this will be punished." He said those responsible may face criminal prosecution.
In Russia, embryos are classed as hazardous waste and are sealed in air-tight packages before disposal and not in large plastic containers. It is also not usual to attach labels to the bodies of fetuses to be disposed of.
The Telegraph reports that Russian doctors and public health experts have warned in the past that there is a thriving illegal trade for human fetuses which are used in beauty treatments.
The Russian Orthodox Church has used the opportunity to repeat its opposition to abortions. Spokesman of the church Vladimir Legoida, said the incident "highlighted the degradation of our society."