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Family detained after hiding twin babies at border

Two babies slept in a wooden chest at a checkpoint in Luzhanka, Ukraine. Authorities detained a French family accused of trying to bring the chest, hidden under a mattress, into Hungary. Two babies slept in a wooden chest at a checkpoint in Luzhanka, Ukraine. Authorities detained a French family accused of trying to bring the chest, hidden under a mattress, into Hungary. (Border Guard Press Service via Associated Press)
Associated Press / March 25, 2011

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KIEV — A French family has been detained for trying to hide their two surrogate infants under a mattress in their van and smuggle them across the border from Ukraine into Hungary, authorities said.

The 2-month-old twin girls were born to a surrogate mother in Ukraine. The French couple said they acted out of despair after the French government refused to issue the children French passports because it does not recognize surrogacy.

“We are not child traffickers, we are their parents,’’ the French mother said in an interview, speaking on condition her name not be used because she feared publicity would hurt her children. “We tried to cross the border out of despair and love for our little girls without knowing what would happen.’’

Border guards discovered the infants hidden in a chest under a mattress when they inspected the vehicle Monday, alarmed by the suspicious behavior of a 38-year-old French man and his father, according to Ukraine Border Guard spokesman Eduard Steblyuk.

Authorities have opened a criminal investigation into illegal transportation of minors abroad. The two men, whose names have not been released, could face from three to seven years in prison if convicted, Steblyuk said.

The babies, identified by Ukrainian authorities as Vicky and Kim, have been taken to a nearby hospital. The French couple was allowed to see them Wednesday and briefly hold the sleeping girls.

“They are doing very well, it’s a very good hospital,’’ the mother said. “We hope to get them back.’’

The French Embassy in Kiev declined to comment.

A French diplomat said the embassy is aware of the situation and was offering assistance to the couple, who are effectively under house arrest in the western Ukrainian city of Uzhorod. France is awaiting the next judicial step.

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