Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Russia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Russia, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 21 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

RUSSIA (Tier 2 Watch List)

Russia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The Migration Research Center estimates that one million people in Russia are exposed to "exploitative" labor conditions that are characteristic of trafficking cases, such as withholding of documents, nonpayment for services, physical abuse, or extremely poor living conditions. People from Russia and many other countries, including Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Asian countries, are subjected to conditions of forced labor in Russia. There were new forced labor allegations involving Vietnamese citizens as perpetrators and victims in Russia. Instances of labor trafficking have been reported in the construction, manufacturing, agriculture, repair shop, and domestic services industries. In the past, there have been reports that forced begging also occurs in Russia. While the major construction sites associated with the APEC Summit and Sochi Olympics were closed to public access and the evidence is only anecdotal, reports indicate generally harsh conditions and signs of forced labor, such as allegations of withholding of travel documents and non-payment of wages. North Korean citizens imported under government-to-government arrangements with the Government of North Korea for work in the logging industry in Russia's Far East reportedly are subjected to conditions of forced labor. There were also reports of Russian citizens facing conditions of forced labor abroad.

Reports of Russian women and children subjected to sex trafficking in Russia and abroad continued in 2011. Russian citizens were reported to be victims of sex trafficking in many countries, including those in Northeast Asia, Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East. There were also reports of citizens from European and African countries in forced prostitution in Russia. According to Russian officials, child sex tourism was a problem in Russia. There have been reports that child sex tourism among Russians abroad exists.

The Government of Russia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government has not shown evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking compared to the previous years; therefore, Russia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a ninth consecutive year. Russia was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan.

Victim protections in Russia during the reporting year remained very weak. In addition, the government again made no discernible efforts to fund a national awareness campaign. In recognition of these shortcomings, however, in December 2010, President Medvedev signed the CIS Program to Combat Human Trafficking for 2011-2013, which outlines commitments to form a national anti-trafficking structure and fund NGOs to provide victim protections. The Ministry of Health and Social Development formed an interagency coordinating committee in December 2010 to address human trafficking, and included anti-trafficking NGOs in the committee and its working groups. When implemented, these efforts have the potential to achieve significant progress in combating human trafficking.

Recommendations for Russia: Develop formal, national procedures to guide law enforcement and other government officials, including labor inspectors and health officials, in identification of trafficking victims and referral of victims to service providers; allocate funding to state bodies and anti-trafficking NGOs to provide specialized trafficking victim assistance and rehabilitative care; increase efforts to identify and assist both sex and labor trafficking victims; implement a formal policy to ensure identified victims of trafficking are not punished or detained in deportation centers for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; ensure that victims have access to legal alternatives to deportation to countries in which they face hardship or retribution; increase the number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for trafficking offenses and investigate and criminally punish government officials complicit in trafficking; create a central repository for investigation, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing data for trafficking cases; increase efforts to raise public awareness of both sex and labor trafficking; and take steps to investigate allegations and prevent the use of forced labor in construction projects, including those associated with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, as well as North Korean-operated labor camps.


The Government of the Russian Federation demonstrated law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Article 127 of the Russian criminal code prohibits both sex trafficking and forced labor. Other criminal statutes were also used to prosecute trafficking offenders, such as articles 240 and 241 for involvement in or organizing prostitution. Article 127 prescribes punishments of up to five years' imprisonment for trafficking crimes. These penalties are commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) reported 46 sex trafficking investigations and at least 17 sex trafficking prosecutions in the first 10 months of 2011. According to media reports, there were at least two labor trafficking prosecutions in 2011. According to the Judicial Department of the Russian Supreme Court, in 2011, a total of 32 people were convicted of "trade in people" under Article 127.1 (the article typically used for sex trafficking crimes), and 11 were convicted of "use of slave labor" under Article 127.2. These data compare with 118 total human trafficking investigations, 62 prosecutions, and 42 convictions for human trafficking in 2010. Officials indicated that the 2009 closure of an IOM trafficking shelter in Moscow and a massive re-organization of the MVD have adversely affected authorities' ability to conduct trafficking investigations. Russian authorities emphasize that they often charge sex trafficking cases under Article 241 (organization of prostitution) as the elements of that crime are often easier to prove, although there is no public information on how many such cases involved forced as opposed to voluntary prostitution. There were media reports indicating that police in Primorskiy Kray and Khaborovskiy Kray conducted raids on labor trafficking establishments in early 2012. During the reporting period, sentences given by Russian courts to 19 of the convicted sex trafficking offenders ranged from four to 19 years' imprisonment. Details concerning the sentences of the 11 individuals convicted of use of slave labor were not made public. At least three labor trafficking cases remained pending completion of investigation or trial. These data are compared with 42 trafficking offenders convicted in 2010. Sentences in 2010 for the reported trafficking convictions ranged from several months to 12 years' imprisonment.

The government did not report specific progress on any of the alleged cases of official complicity in human trafficking from the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 TIP Reports. During the reporting period, however, authorities convicted a local police chief of sex trafficking and handed down a suspended sentence of four years. Airport police in Vladivostok reportedly detained a police officer on suspicion of complicity in a sex trafficking situation in March 2012. The North Korean government continued to export workers for bilateral contracts with Russia and other foreign governments. Despite media allegations of slave-like conditions in North Korean-operated timber camps in Russia, the Russian government has not reported any investigations into this situation.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the lead law enforcement agency in the majority of trafficking cases, conducted regular training during the reporting period designed to guide officers in handling trafficking cases. According to the government, the General Procuracy, the Russian Academy for Justice, the Russian Academy of Advocacy, the MVD, and the Federal Security Service provided periodic training as well.


The Russian government demonstrated minimal progress in efforts to protect and assist trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government did not develop or employ a formal system to guide officials in proactive identification of trafficking victims or referral of victims to available services, and there continued to be no available official statistics on the number of trafficking victims identified or assisted by the government or NGOs. The government did not report publicly any funding or programs for specific assistance to trafficking victims, and the government did not verify how many trafficking victims benefitted from funding or programs intended for other, general purposes, such as witness protection, child protection, or government crisis centers, which were unlikely to accept victims who were not registered in the district in which the center is located. Services for victims outside of their region of registration or residence area would normally be limited to emergency care in hospitals. A small trafficking shelter in the City of Khabarovsk closed during 2011 for lack of funding. A trafficking shelter in Vladivostok that received some local government funding helped one victim during the reporting period.

The government reported that it encouraged victims to participate in anti-trafficking investigations by offering trafficking victims that cooperate with officials witness protection provisions on a case-by-case basis. There were no formal legal alternatives to deportation for foreign victims. Russia did not demonstrate a systematic approach to ensure that trafficking victims were not punished for crimes committed as a direct result of their trafficking experience. According to authorities, most foreign victims were neither deported nor supported as witnesses in a prosecution; they were often released to make their own way home or to stay in Russia to look for work.


Russia's national government demonstrated very limited efforts to prevent trafficking over the reporting period. So far, there have been no nationwide campaigns to raise awareness of human trafficking in Russia or efforts to develop public awareness of possible forced labor in advance of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Several high-level officials spoke out against human trafficking during the reporting period, including then prime minister now President Putin, who called for toughening penalties against those "who organize flows of illegal immigrants, hire people without work permits and use them as slaves." The national human rights ombudsman, as well as the Minister of Health, also spoke out strongly against human trafficking during the reporting period.

The government did not have a body to monitor its anti-trafficking activities and make periodic assessments measuring its performance. The government did not take specific steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, nor did it report any specific measures to ensure that its military personnel, when deployed abroad as part of a peacekeeping or other similar mission, did not engage in or facilitate human trafficking. Russia issued arrest warrants and requested extradition to Russia of a Russian citizen convicted of sexually abusing many young girls in Cambodia.

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