The doctors have been in prison for three months.
In June of this year, 5 surrogate babies were found in one of the Moscow apartments. The children were accompanied by two Chinese nannies and were waiting to be sent to China to their genetic parents. They were unable to pick up the babies because of the quarantine introduced due to the pandemic. However, the ICR opened a criminal case on human trafficking.
Six months earlier, a newborn boy died in a rented apartment in Odintsovo. As the ambulance and the police, who arrived at the call, found out that there were three children in the apartment. They were looked after by a nanny. The boy received a traumatic brain injury during childbirth and was in the Morozov hospital. After discharge, the child was with a nanny and two more babies. Investigators opened a criminal case for the failure to provide medical care to the patient.
These two cases were united by the fact that their genetic parents were clients of Rosjurconsulting. This office was looking for customers abroad for surrogate babies. When it became clear that it was the same organization, an article on human trafficking was also added to the case of Filipino children. The babies were sent to orphanages with living parents. The defenders of braces, represented by the notorious Elena Mizulina, immediately began a campaign in the Duma to abolish surrogacy. And a wave of Russian justice, senseless and merciless, swept over the doctors.
Chronicle of events
The doctors were arrested first. On July 16, the head of the department of in vitro fertilization of the Petrovskie Vorota CMP Taras Ashitkov, an obstetrician-gynecologist of the highest category with 30 years of experience, Lilia Panaioti, a fertility specialist at the NGC clinic Yulianna Ivanova and a courier Valentina Chernysheva were taken into custody.
The next day, Vladislav Melnikov, general director of the European Center for Surrogacy and co-founder of Rosyurconsulting, lawyer of Rosyurconsulting Roman Emashev, translator Kirill Anisimov, were arrested. Tatiana Blinova, the surrogate mother of the deceased baby, was placed under house arrest.
None of those arrested pleaded guilty.
Konstantin Svitnev, general director of Rosjurkonsalting, was not among them. Svitnev is still abroad and was put on the international wanted list.
On September 9, two persons involved in these criminal cases, lawyer Emashev and courier Chernysheva, gave confessions.
A day later, the Basmanny Court of Moscow extended the arrest to doctors. The general director of the private clinic Vladislav Melnikov, urologist Artur Ashitkov and gynecologists Yulianna Ivanova and Lilia Panaioti will remain in custody until at least December 14.
In the meantime, in Vidnoye, Moscow Region, the trial continued on recognizing surrogate babies as victims in these cases. On September 10, three children were recognized as victims. Yesterday, the court demanded from the investigation documents on the birth of twins, whose biological father, former deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament of the Philippines, Fredinel Castro, has been trying to take the children home for several months.
Russia is among the countries where surrogacy is allowed. It must be said that in most countries, bearing other people's children for money is prohibited by law. Where the legislator has decided otherwise, this business thrives. Infertility is a disease that used to be incurable. If the mother's body did not produce an egg, and the father's sperm, or the woman could not bear children, the dream of a child remained unrealizable, or the family went through all the circles of hell of adopting orphans. With the advent of IVF - in vitro fertilization - and the germ cell bank, infertile families have a chance for their own children. Therefore, the flow of people desperate for offspring does not dry up to Russia, Ukraine and Georgia. Fredinel Castro's lawyer Igor Trunov says that if 2 years ago there were 169 firms in Russia providing surrogacy services, this year there are already 300 of them .
Oddly enough, there is no separate law on surrogacy in Russia. There are separate provisions enshrined in different federal laws. Article 55 of Federal Law No. 323 "On the Basics of Health Protection of Citizens in the Russian Federation" describes the use of assisted reproductive technologies. Medical indications for surrogacy are named by the order of the Ministry of Health "On the procedure for using assisted reproductive technologies, contraindications and restrictions on their use." The Family Code enshrines the rights not only of biological parents of a surrogate child, but also of a surrogate mother. Therefore, when processing documents for a newborn, an official refusal of the surrogate mother from the child is required.
Obviously, doctors do not seek clients and do not have contacts with prospective surrogate mothers. This is done by intermediaries - medical centers and law firms they engage. In this case, it is the European Center for Surrogate Motherhood and Rosjurconsulting. They conclude contracts with clients and surrogate mothers and legally and commercially accompany the entire process from finding a customer to the birth of a child, issuing his documents to buying diapers, searching for nannies for the time of registration and sending children to biological parents. According to Melnikov's lawyer Lyudmila Aivar, her client was responsible only for the Russian part of the business, Rosjurconsulting and the wanted Konstantin Svitnev were responsible for foreigners:
- Melnikov worked only with the Russian citizens who apply for the procedure of surrogacy, and he's in the program for Castro directed the surrogate mothers, because the surrogates and donors have appealed to ETSSM and Rosjurconsulting. They had candidate databases. They entered into an agreement with women who became either a donor or a surrogate mother. He did not enter into contracts and did not come into contact with foreigners.
The procedure for issuing documents for children - foreign citizens - is rather complicated and lengthy. It was also handled by Rosjurconsulting. After the birth of the child in the maternity hospital, you need to obtain the relevant documents, which the parents or their proxies send to the registry office, where the child's birth certificate is issued. A birth certificate is issued on the basis of a medical birth certificate from a maternity hospital. A surrogate mother gives up the child. After that, it is necessary to put an apostille - confirmation of the legality of the document, since the child is a foreign citizen. When these documents are ready, a foreign passport and an exit visa are issued for the child. This whole procedure takes several months.
The Filipino twins were born last October, so some of the documents were received in January.
- At what stage in January was the registration process, when the children were taken away and sent to the orphanage?
"It was at the stage of obtaining foreign passports. There were already birth certificates where children were recorded as children of their parents and subjects of another state. Under Philippine law, children already had citizenship by blood, since the parents are citizens of the Philippines. Children receive citizenship automatically”, - says lawyer Lyudmila Aivar.
Konstantin Svitnev and Rosjurconsulting
Konstantin Svitnev, director of Rosjurconsulting, is a well-known figure in the field of reproductive medicine. He became a popularizer of IVF and surrogacy long ago. As a lawyer, he knows all the pitfalls of this difficult process. Mr. Svitnev was very lucky, because when the clouds began to gather over his business, he found himself far from Moscow.
Obviously, when the whole world was quarantined due to the pandemic, the situation with surrogate babies got out of control. Not only were all borders closed, and the biological parents could not get on the plane, fly in and pick up the children. Both parents and children expected effective support from the agency staff.
“Children without documents were found. Most likely, surrogate mothers have already abandoned them, and the genetic parents could not come, since the borders are closed due to the pandemic. They are citizens of another country. I think that in this case the agency is to blame, they should have thought over this issue, provided steps in a pandemic. Parents had to issue powers of attorney for their representatives in Russia so that they could issue documents for their children. Where are the rights to the child, who thinks and cares about it? I don't see any crime here, but this is an absurd situation that has arisen due to a pandemic and due to gaps in legislation", - says Yelena Kalinina, a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, director of the ART-ECO clinic, Doctor of Medicine.
Konstantin Svitnev's lawyer Igor Trunov refers to the fact that the investigators seized all the documentation, and the firm's activities were frozen, it became impossible to work.
Svitnev through newspapers from Prague either promises to return and tell everything to the investigation, then he fears for his fate and prefers to communicate with the investigators through journalists. He understands that without his participation in the investigation and process, the rest of its participants become actual hostages, but his shirt is closer to the body. Svitnev does not hesitate to say about this in an interview:
“I am now the only person who can give answers to all questions, and it is difficult to build protection for these seven detained people without me. I have every reason to fear that I will either not make it to Moscow, or, being immediately arrested, I will "get sick" with covid and die in a couple of days. I don't want to go to jail. I have four children. "
Little details are leaked out - the investigation actually classified the case, referring to the fact that it wants to protect the interests of the children. The rest of the parties talk about the details of the case extremely sparingly. It is unclear whether passports were issued for children. Why the investigation did not recognize the genetic examination of parents and children - there is no answer. Was the activities of Rosjurconsulting frozen and all documents seized, as lawyer Trunov says, or did the employees continue to issue passports and papers for children, bring food and diapers, as lawyer Melnikova Aivar says?
A special veil of secrecy enveloped the doctors. Almost nothing is known about them. But it was they, in addition to the children, who turned out to be extreme in this situation.
The professional community can only guess what happened to their esteemed colleagues. The situation is extremely alarming. Not only is the reputation crumbling before the eyes of doctors, because we are talking not just about graduates of the medical institute, although that would be sad. But Dr. Ashitkov and Dr. Ivanova are members of the Russian, European and American Association for Reproductive Medicine. Dr. Panaioti has been successfully delivering childbirth for thirty years. Why the court left them behind bars, there is no clear explanation. It is impossible to imagine why people who give life are so dangerous for the investigation. It is unlikely that the doctors even knew the parents of "surrogate" babies. Moreover, they had nothing to do with the execution of documents for them.
Ekaterina Pomerantseva, a geneticist, candidate of biological sciences, a member of the RARCH, says that there are several assumptions why Ashitkov, Ivanova and Panaioti could have gotten into this mess. The hospital receives the money for the services, not the doctors, which means that the medical institution should be responsible.
- I suspect that these particular doctors were made extreme. The clinic should have been involved as a medical institution, and not specific doctors. The money is received by a medical institution, not specific doctors, says Ekaterina Pomerantseva .
There is a version that surrogate motherhood itself, as a way to overcome infertility, has gotten so deep in someone's throat that, taking advantage of this situation, a loud reason, they simply want to ban it. Indeed, there are many opponents of IVF and surrogacy. In the forefront, the church and the adherents of the scrapie stand against him. Since 2017, either in the Duma or in the Federation Council, there have been attempts to pass a legislative ban on the use of other women to carry other people's children. Immediately after the opening of a criminal case on human trafficking, the Federation Council announced the development of a new law prohibiting surrogacy. But only in Russia the cart almost always stands in front of the horse.
- The situation is exotic. There is a law and there is a criminal case. Maybe you can somehow explain this? For foreigners, this is a paradox. If there is a desire to regulate, you need to adopt amendments to the law, and then, when the amendments come into force, an investigative committee is turned on for those who do not comply with the law, but here the opposite is true - first the Investigative Committee works, and then our legislators like Yarovaya begin to speak out that the law needs to be changed. But it should be the other way around, says lawyer Igor Trunov .
The third version, which is being discussed in professional circles, is that the fathers were homosexuals, because of this, a witch hunt began.
- There is a suspicion that in this situation they tried to pass off such a practice as child trafficking, when a child is born with the help of surrogate motherhood, where the biological father will be the actual dad, and the biological mother will be the oacite donor. Among other things, it may be worrying that the father plans to raise the child alone, within the framework of autonomous parenthood. Perhaps some families of this type. It's not a fact that everyone, colleagues are discussing that there were ordinary families with other types of infertility, - says Ekaterina Pomerantseva .
But this also does not apply to doctors. There are big doubts that they knew at all whether the born baby has a single father or not. And even if they knew it, there are positive decisions of the Russian court. But this time, this situation could be interpreted in favor of restrictions, says Dr. Pomerantseva.
And the saddest version is that they simply want to transfer surrogacy from private medicine to public one.
This version can also take place, because the cost of one surrogate baby is 70 thousand dollars. Journalist Pavel Pryanikov writes:
“What will replace export earnings from oil and gas, which we will sell less and less? Count yourself. If we carry 1 million children a year for China alone (and there will certainly be demand from other countries), then selling them will give Russia 70 billion dollars. This is already replacing half of the lost exports for oil. Half will go to bureaucrats, intermediaries, maternity hospitals, taxes, and half will go to Russian women (usually half of the amount is given to women in labor). For two children sold in the region, you can buy a normal apartment (70 thousand dollars - 5 million rubles). "
The case of surrogate babies has become so important that it is supervised by the head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin. It is not known whether the investigators will want to understand the intricacies of imperfect legislation or will go down the beaten path - punish everyone, jail and report on their success. From their bell tower it looks simple: there are children, the money has been paid, which means that this is human trafficking.
But it's not that easy. From the intricacies of political interests, legislative confusion and administrative chaos, underage children were left without parents. Doctors, who are already in short supply, are in prison. If the investigators call it justice, then their Themis is too cruel and inhuman.
In a month the Filipino twins turn one year old. They will celebrate their birthday in the Vidnovsky orphanage for children with mental disabilities. According to lawyers, in Russia, about 2,000 thousand surrogate babies have been "stuck" due to quarantine and a legal battle. Doctors will go to jail because such criminal cases last up to 5 years or more. If they are found guilty, they face a prison sentence of 3 to 10 years.
The colleagues of Ashitkov, Ivanova and Panioti do not want to stand aside and watch the doctors grind the millstones of justice. The Russian Association for Human Reproduction and a number of other medical associations are preparing a letter in support of them. They ask to replace the prison with house arrest first. Colleagues fear that this trial will cause irreparable damage to the entire field of medicine. Already, maternity hospitals refuse to accept women in labor if they find out that we are talking about surrogate mothers. Away from sin.