[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

RUSSIA (TIER 2 - WATCH LIST)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Russia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Men and women from the Russian Far East are trafficked to South Korea, China, Bahrain, Oman, Japan, and South Korea for purposes of sexual exploitation, debt bondage, and forced labor, including in the agricultural and fishing sectors. Some Russian women are trafficked to Turkey, Greece, South Africa, Germany, Poland, Italy, Israel, Spain, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Men and women from Central Asia and Ukraine are trafficked to the Russian Far East for the purpose of forced labor, including victims trafficked for forced labor in the fishing industry. The ILO reports that labor trafficking is the most predominant form of trafficking in Russia. Men and women are trafficked within Russia and from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and Moldova to Russia for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor, including work in the construction industry. A significant number of men from Belarus are trafficked to Russia for the purpose of forced labor in the construction, manufacturing, and fishing sectors. Moscow and St. Petersburg have been destinations for children trafficked within Russia and from Ukraine and Moldova for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced begging. Men from Western Europe and the United States travel to Western Russia, specifically St. Petersburg for the purpose of child sex tourism; experts continue to credit a decrease in the number of child victims in these cities to aggressive police investigations and Russian cooperation with foreign law enforcement.

The Government of the Russian Federation does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these significant efforts, the government over the last year: decreased the number of reported trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions; did not vigorously prosecute, convict, and punish government officials; made no significant efforts to improve efforts to identify and assist victims of trafficking; and did not make adequate efforts to address labor trafficking; therefore, Russia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Victim identification and assistance remained inadequate and varied in quality and availability, despite efforts by some regional and local authorities. The federal government did not dedicate funding to anti-trafficking activities or trafficking victim assistance during the reporting period; and, despite limited funding by some local governments, the majority of shelter and direct trafficking assistance continued to be provided by foreign-funded international organizations and NGOs.

Recommendations for Russia: Develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy that addresses all forms of trafficking and provides comprehensive victim assistance throughout Russia; provide funding from federal, regional, and/or municipal budgets to implement this national strategy; allocate funding to anti-trafficking NGOs that provide victim assistance and rehabilitative care; increase the number of victims identified and assisted; designate trafficking-specific responsibilities to relevant government ministries on the national and regional levels; establish an official federal coordinating body with the authority to implement the national strategy; increase the number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for trafficking offenses, particularly government officials complicit in trafficking; ensure convicted traffickers and convicted complicit officials are sentenced to some time in prison; create a central repository for investigation, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing data for trafficking cases; continue efforts to raise public awareness of both sex and labor trafficking; increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish labor trafficking offenses; and continue to take steps to prevent the use of forced labor in construction projects for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The Government of the Russian Federation sustained its investigation efforts, but reported limited prosecution and no conviction efforts during the reporting period. Article 127 of the Russian Criminal Code prohibits both trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Other criminal statutes are also used to prosecute and convict traffickers. Article 127 provides punishments of up to five years’ imprisonment for trafficking crimes and aggravating circumstances may extend penalties up to 15 years’ imprisonment; this is commensurate with punishments prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. In 2008, police conducted 111 trafficking investigations under Article 127 -- 95 for sex trafficking and 16 for forced labor cases -- down from 139 trafficking investigations in 2007. It was difficult to ascertain the exact number of prosecutions and convictions resulting from these investigations because the government again did not collect and maintain such statistics. At least nine traffickers were prosecuted during the reporting period, compared with at least 46 prosecutions in 2007. The government did not report the number of convicted traffickers or those sentenced to serve time in prison during the reporting period. In July 2006, the Duma passed asset forfeiture legislation that permits prosecutors to forfeit the assets of convicted persons, including traffickers; however, there were no reports that the law has been used against human traffickers since its enactment.

In 2008, authorities reportedly investigated three high-level officials for possible involvement in human trafficking, including one military official for organizing an international sex trafficking syndicate which was allegedly responsible for trafficking 130 women and girls from Eastern Europe to Western Europe and the Middle East between 1999 and 2007. One low-level police officer was arrested for trafficking women to the UAE and two low-level police officers were arrested for trafficking women within Russia for commercial sexual exploitation; these investigations were ongoing at the end of the reporting period. There was no updated information on whether the three officials that were arrested for trafficking-related complicity in 2007 – as reported in the 2008 Report – were prosecuted, convicted, or punished during the reporting period. There was no updated information on whether the five military officials investigated in 2007 for the labor exploitation of military conscripts under their command were prosecuted, convicted, or punished for their actions during the reporting period.

Russia demonstrated limited progress in improving its inadequate efforts to protect and assist victims during the reporting period. Russia lacks national policies and national programs to provide specific assistance for trafficking victims. The majority of aid to NGOs and international organizations providing victim assistance continued to be funded by international donors. Some local governments reportedly provided modest financial and in-kind support to some anti-trafficking NGOs. A local government in the Russian Far East provided facility space for a foreign-funded shelter that opened in February 2009; one victim was assisted during the reporting period. The City of St. Petersburg continued to fund a number of shelters for children which provided assistance to some child victims of trafficking in 2008. Although the government did not track the number of victims assisted by local governments and NGOs in 2008, some victims of trafficking were provided with limited assistance at regional and municipal-run government-funded domestic violence and homeless shelters. However, the quality of these shelters varied and they were often ill-equipped to provide for the specific legal, medical, and psychological needs of trafficking victims. Also, foreign and Russian victims found in regions where they did not reside were sometimes denied access to state-run general health care and social assistance programs, as local governments could restrict eligibility to these services to local residents.

Russia demonstrated inadequate efforts to identify victims; the majority of assisted victims continued to be identified by NGOs or international organizations. Some municipalities across Russia had cooperation agreements between NGOs and local authorities to refer victims for assistance, and in 2008 an increasing number of the victims assisted nationwide were referred by government officials; IOM reported that approximately 48 percent of the 117 trafficking victims assisted by their foreign-funded shelter in Moscow were referred by law enforcement and other government authorities. In October 2008, a local government in Tatarstan signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a local NGO to improve victim identification and referral for assistance. In early April 2009, an NGO-run shelter in Vladivostok also signed a similar agreement with the local police. Police in some communities encouraged victims to participate in trafficking investigations and prosecutions. The Ministry of Interior introduced anti-trafficking training in its police academies. No victims of trafficking were assisted by the witness protection program in 2008. Foreign victims were permitted to reside in Russia pending the investigation and prosecution of their trafficker and may petition for asylum to remain in Russia. There were no reports that victims were punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

Russia maintained its modest awareness efforts from the previous reporting period. Government-owned media in newspapers, television, and over the Internet reported numerous stories and aired documentaries relating to human trafficking, and often detailed preventative measures for potential victims to avoid falling prey to traffickers. The Russian Academy of Sciences conducted a recent survey of 837 potential victims of trafficking; the results indicated that more than 70 percent of those surveyed were aware of the dangers of both sex and labor trafficking. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued to maintain a website warning Russian citizens traveling abroad about the dangers of trafficking. The government did not take specific steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. In 2008, one American man was arrested by authorities for the commercial sexual exploitation of a child; the defendant subsequently pleaded guilty and was expected to be sentenced after the conclusion of the reporting period. The government did not report trafficking-specific training for its troops deployed abroad as peacekeepers. The regional government in Yekaterinburg continued to fund a migrant center that worked with local Diaspora organizations to shelter and legalize migrants, making them less vulnerable to labor trafficking in the region.