Russia (Tier 2 Watch List)
Russia is a major source country for women trafficked globally for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Russia is also a transit and destination country for persons trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation (including sex tourism) from regional and neighboring countries into Russia, and on to the Gulf States, Europe, and North America. A 2004 ILO report estimated that 20% of the five million illegal immigrants in Russia are victims of forced labor. Internal trafficking from rural to urban areas, especially Moscow, is a concern.
The Government of Russia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Russia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for lack of progress on victim protection measures, and because the new coordinating mechanism had not yet sufficient time to show results. Reports of trafficking-related complicity among Russian officials are a continuing concern; implementation of the anti-trafficking amendments of the Criminal Code had not had time to show results. Notably, the central government visibly increased its momentum and engagement on trafficking. The government should continue this by implementing protections for trafficking victims immediately, including foreign victims in Russia, and by focusing prevention efforts toward vulnerable groups. The government should also visibly reinforce its actions to root out official complicity in trafficking.
In December 2003, President Putin signed legislative amendments to the Criminal Code outlawing trafficking in persons and forced labor, and expanding liability for prostitution-related offenses, with abuse of official position as an aggravating factor. Investigations and prosecutions of trafficking under this new legislation were initiated during the reporting period, but no convictions were reported. More prosecutions were underway under pre-existing trafficking-related legislation. Seven members of a criminal gang were sentenced for acts involving recruitment and sexual exploitation of children; 20 prosecutions were ongoing for the sale of minors; six defendants were charged with kidnapping for internal trafficking for sexual exploitation; and six criminal organizers were arrested and placed in pre-trial detention on trafficking-related charges involving the trafficking of 43 women to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and Thailand. Reports of official complicity in trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation continued. The government reported one anti-corruption action targeting an organized crime group in the Ministry of Interior suspected of, among other things, protecting prostitution businesses. The suspects were arrested and placed in pre-trial detention. In Irkutsk, a special unit shut down travel and model agencies and marriage brokers conducting trafficking-like activities, but the government did not confirm any arrests or prosecutions. The Russian Government co-sponsored a regional law enforcement conference to establish working-level cooperation on specific cases and a new resolution for cooperation, and assisted other governments in their investigations of trafficking to Russia.
The Duma did not pass trafficking victim protection legislation, but passage of separate witness protection legislation progressed. In the meantime, trafficking victims had no specially defined status under Russian law, nor specific mechanisms to assist or protect them. The government did not institute a victim screening or referral process in Russia. The government issued instructions to its consulates regarding assistance to Russian trafficking victims, and assisted in returning 33 victims trafficked from the U.A.E.
High-level government officials addressed the issue of trafficking in the media, but the government did not authorize budgetary allocations for prevention programs. Moreover, it did not focus prevention activities toward vulnerable categories, such as educated women between 18-34, orphans, street children, and foreign laborers. President Putin drew public attention to the problem of trafficking and its nexus with organized crime during nationwide addresses. In April 2004, the government announced formation of a central government authority to coordinate implementation of anti-trafficking policies. The government hosted a national NGO conference that garnered widespread media attention. Local government cooperation with NGOs continued, and an estimated 30% of NGOs reported receiving some local government financial or in-kind support for anti-trafficking projects. One regional government collaborated with an anti-trafficking NGO to produce a list of guidelines for Ministry of Interior employees working with children and trafficking victims.