MOSCOW -- Villagers in Russia's south Urals region have stumbled upon a gruesome discovery -- four barrels left in a forest containing 248 human fetuses, prompting an official probe, officials said Tuesday.
Police in the Sverdlovsk region said the fetuses, preserved in formaldehyde, were kept in barrels with tags marked with surnames and numbers.
The fetuses were found a few miles away from a highway linking the region's capital, Yekaterinburg, with another big city, Nizhny Tagil. Police believe that they may have come from four local hospitals and have started an investigation.
The fetuses have been placed in a local morgue.
The Health Ministry said it had ordered a check of local hospitals to prevent such incidents occurring again.
"The rude violation of medical ethics causes indignation," the ministry said in a statement. "It's inadmissible from both the moral and legal viewpoint."
The Russian Orthodox Church used the incident to emphasize its opposition against abortions. Spokesman Vladimir Legoida said in a statement that it "highlighted the degradation of our society."