MOSCOW – Prosecutors said Thursday they are investigating allegations that workers at a central Russian hospital taped infants' mouths shut to keep them from crying, in a scandal that has sparked widespread outrage.
In a second incident, prosecutors in the Far Eastern city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk said they had opened a criminal probe at a kindergarten where an employee gave unauthorized injection to children to help them sleep. According to a BBC report, all or some of the babies were orphans.
The alleged mouth-taping at Hospital No. 15 in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, about 900 miles east of Moscow, has received wide coverage in the Russian media.
According to a statement posted on the prosecutor general's Web site, investigators found that hospital workers allegedly used tape or adhesive bandages to shut the mouths of infants on several occasions to quiet them.
Regional prosecutors were conducting a criminal probe into whether hospital workers could be charged with dereliction of duty or child abuse, the statement said. It was unclear when or if charges would be filed.
Earlier this week, Russian TV broadcast video reportedly taken with a cell phone that showed a crib with sleeping baby who appeared to have a pacifier taped to its mouth.
The Interfax news agency on Tuesday reported that Yekaterinburg city health officials had reprimanded the hospital's chief doctor and its chief nurse.
Russia's health and welfare institutions — including hospitals and orphanages — fell into disrepair after the Soviet collapse as government funding dried up. Though government revenues have risen with world oil prices, many welfare institutions remain woefully neglected, as often as not victims of corrupt officials, and employees are often paid miserly wages.
In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, on the Pacific island of Sakhalin, regional prosecutor Tatyana Kutuzova said that investigators had opened a criminal probe into whether a worker injected children to calm them down or to help them sleep.
She told the NTV television network that the worker lacked the necessary training and qualifications and should not have been working in the kindergarten.
Lyubov Kuritsina, a regional education official, said the worker had been fired.
In another recent incident that caused widespread shock, an infant in southern Russia had to have her arm amputated after an injection for a routine illness caused a blood infection.