A police investigation has opened in Russia after a father claimed maternity hospital staff had replaced his "dead newborn twins" with dolls ahead of their funeral.
Daud Daudov, 33, initially alleged his sons could be “alive” and victims of a baby-selling or adoption racket.
He showed a video from the burial after he unwrapped the shrouds to see his babies for the first time, revealing dolls.
The "shocked" man and his relatives then called police, triggering a scandal over baby abuse in Russia.
But on Thursday (local time) a senior regional official revealed the man’s wife, Laura, confessed she did not give birth and had wrapped the dolls in a shroud for the funeral.
She did so because her husband had been so happy to hear she was pregnant and she couldn’t stop lying, the wife said.
“The woman went through a medical examination which established that she did not give birth,” Stavropol governor Vladimir Vladimirov said.
“Later the woman in writing confirmed that the whole story was made up.
“What can I say? I am speechless. Now this is down to the family and the law enforcement.
"I am hoping that people who have wrongly accused our doctors will apologise.”
Wife allegedly faked pregnancy and newborns' deaths
The wife in a statement allegedly admitted she had faked her pregnancy, along with the birth and death of her newborns, because her husband really wanted to have children.
Her initial positive pregnancy test was not confirmed, she allegedly said.
“I saw how happy my husband was when I told him that I was pregnant,” the wife reportedly said.
“I didn’t want to upset him and therefore decided to lie to him and to our relatives by faking the pregnancy.
“I didn’t have a clear plan. Sometimes I felt as if my tummy was growing, I felt as if I was pregnant.
"In January I went to have a look at babies' cots. It’s hard to explain, from one hand I knew I wasn’t pregnant, but I couldn’t stop pretending."
She rented a flat near the maternity hospital, bought two dolls and told her family the babies died after birth.
“On that same day my husband told me that we had to bury the babies in Dagestan, at his family’s graveyard," the wife allegedly said.
“Then (at the burial) my husband unmasked my lies by finding the dolls instead of the babies.
“I misled all my relatives and my husband. I am terribly sorry.”
Husband's claims about 'newborns' in video
Daudov claimed in a video statement released by the Interior Ministry his sons had been born healthy on February 3 at Stavropol perinatal centre in southern Russia.
His wife was initially in intensive care following the delivery, he said.
She had recovered and cared for the “healthy” babies on February 7 and 8 in her ward at the hospital.
At 3am on February 9 she was told they had died, he said.
The cause for both deaths was given as “cerebral haemorrhage, aneurysm”, he said.
“It is like a ticking bomb,” he said.
“It cannot be checked, except by postmortem.
"But Islam prohibits dissection, we must bury the kids as they are.
“She went downstairs and saw some men there.
“They gave her psychological help, calmed her down, took the kids, and said: ‘We will pray for them, wash them, cover them with grave-clothes…’”
He claimed when she was released from hospital she was given the two dead babies and put in a taxi to go home.
“I was at work at that moment. I called her, she answered, started crying and asked me to come home," he said.
“I asked her what happened and at this moment she told me that we had lost our kids.
“I came home in panic and they were there. I did not leave them from that moment, they were in my sight, constantly.”
He said he mourned but did not unwrap the shrouds until the burial in the family’s native region of Dagestan close to another family grave.
“My cousin told me: 'Bro, they are still people... we need to do this in a human way,'" the man said.
“‘We need to see their faces before we bury them.
“I opened the face of the first baby and saw there were no eyes.
“What was this? I began to open the face of the second one.
“The same. This was a doll… a doll.”
He told the police: “Everyone was shocked… they were both just dolls.
“In disposable nappies, like real kids….
“After this we called the police.”
He claimed “my babies are alive” and implied they could be victims of crimes that have allegedly seen newborn babies sold for adoption or black market sale, while parents are told they are dead.
'Baby deaths' story could not be confirmed
In his first response, Mr Vladimirov had said the case “makes your heart shrink".
“Such grief, and such a situation," he said.
He vowed to personally supervise the investigation which involved the police and Investigative Committee, which handled serious criminal cases.
“In addition to empathy, the first reaction is a desire to fully understand," Mr Vladimirov said.
It then emerged there had been no record of Daudov’s wife as a patient or of the deaths of newborn twins.
“In the event of death, the body is handed over to relatives not by a medical facility, but the forensic service after an appropriate study,” he said.
“The relatives have the opportunity to see the body. This is all very strange.
“I personally will check the situation."
Later he said hospital records across his region did not confirm the husband’s account.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.