Trafficking of Russian Youngsters Is Denounced

"Entire Villages Where There Are No More Children

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ROME, OCT. 15, 2001 (Zenit.org).- An illegal trade in children is skirting Russian law by having healthy youngsters declared handicapped, clearing the way for them to be sold to Westerners who pay up to $50,000 a child, a priest says.



Father Oreste Benzi, founder of the John XXIII Association, denounced the existence of a network of illegal traffic of Russian children from their country to Europe and other destinations. He recently visited Russia.

After touring a children´s center and a therapeutic community in Volgograd administered by his group, the priest said: "For years there has been an illegal traffic of Russian children to other countries, Italy being first among them. They are reported as being handicapped, but in fact as much as $50,000 is paid for them."

While in Russia, Father Benzi met with civil and religious authorities as well as magistrates, who denounced the trafficking.

"They told me that there are entire Russian villages where there are no more children," the priest said. "This explains why Russia, Romania and Ukraine froze international adoptions some time ago."

Father Benzi reported that Nadia Fratti is on trial in Volgograd for having falsified the documents of at least 600 healthy children, classifying them as handicapped in order to take them to Italy.

Both Russian and Italian law includes restrictive and severe norms to impede abuses in international adoptions. Russian law, however, allows the international adoption of handicapped children who live in institutions. This provides the cover for the illegal trade.

"Suffice it to have an obliging director of an institution, a doctor who declares them handicapped, a lawyer who knows adoption practices, a trafficker of minors, a body authorized to handle adoptions, and someone who pays up to $50,000 for a European family to take a child home in two months, declared an invalid but very healthy," Father Benzi explained.

He reported that Ginnasio Ramadanov, the doctor in the Volgograd Children´s Home and a Fratti accomplice, told the judges in the latter´s trial: "I ask the Russian people to forgive me for having helped to send their children abroad."