A box in which parents can leave their babies anonymously without any legal risk has opened in a town in northwestern Russia – a move that activists hope will save many young lives.

The baby box at the hospital in Kirishi, an industrial town 100km east of St Petersburg, is the 10th such facility in Russia. Experts think that’s just a fraction of what is needed.

Once a baby is put in the box, its door closes and a nurse gets alerted by a signal. There are no security cameras so parents can leave their babies anonymously. An information stand next to the box appeals to parents to think over their decision and offers contact numbers for assistance.

Kolybel Nadezhdy (Cradle of Hope), a non-government organisation that opened the baby box, said it should help attract nationwide attention to the issue.

Its head, Yelena Kotova, said more than a dozen babies are abandoned in Russia every month according to official statistics, but she said the real figures are believed to be at least three times higher.

Russian police have registered 268 cases of murder of newborn babies by their mothers in 2010-11, and media have carried regular reports of babies found in garbage containers, forests or snow drifts.

Russia borrowed the baby box idea from other European countries.