On Sunday, January 5, 2020, Russian officials began a criminal investigation after a seven-month-old baby boy passed away in the early morning hours in a residential apartment building on Orlova Street in the town of Nikolaevsk-on-Amur, which is located along the Amur River in the Khabarovsk Krai/Territory. The infant’s parents had decided to place their son outside on their apartment’s balcony in a stroller to sleep for a bit in fresh-yet-freezing air. This is a common practice by parents and guardians in many geographic areas of the world that normally experience colder climates. Parents often believe that this practice in winter helps protect their children from seasonal ailments like colds and respiratory problems. In some countries, parents even believe that freezing temperatures help children experience longer, more restful naps. Russia is known for its colder-than-expected, harsh winters. Yet, many Russian parents still place their young children outside for naps during the winter months of December through February. Some critics of the practice have been surprised that this it is even allowed in Khabarovsk Krai, which is in the Far Eastern part of the country near the Sea of Okhotsk and Pacific Ocean, given that temperatures there can drop as low as -5.8 to -13 degrees Fahrenheit (-21 to -25 degrees Celsius) at night.

The mother, who investigators have learned was responsible for bringing the baby back inside after a few minutes, claims that she forgot that she had placed him outside. As a result, he remained on the balcony in his stroller for nearly five hours in air that was at one point at a temperature of -4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees Celsius). Upon discovery of her mistake, the 40-year-old woman found that her child wouldn’t wake up and had passed away in his sleep from exposure. A preliminary coroner’s report names hypothermia, a condition where a person’s core body temperature drops too low from exposure to freezing temperatures, as the likely cause of the incident. The Khabarovsk regional investigative committee has detained the mother for questioning and has begun interviewing anyone linked to the family that might know more details. Little is known at the moment about the parents. The mother’s reason for forgetting is also still uncertain. Officials have made an inspection of the crime scene without any additional details emerging from the site. Additionally, the boy’s body showed no outward sign of any sort of violent attack that could otherwise explain his what happened.

The Khabarovsk regional health ministry took to Instagram later that same day to issue a special alert and warning to all parents in the area. They advised parents to remember that they should never leave young children outside without adult supervision. There has been a worrisome history of gross negligence and ignorance by parents in the Khabarovsk region in recent years with an increase in negligence and child injuries, including burns and falls, during holidays. The ministry has also found parents and other adults outright ignoring even the most simple safety measures that can prevent these types of events. On Instagram, the ministry asked all adults to always check unattended children since the area’s current low temperatures can quickly kill them if they’re injured, lost and alone. Parents were also reminded to always maintain awareness of where their children are at all times and the identities of adults with them.