Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

RUSSIA: Tier 3

Russia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Labor trafficking remains the predominant human trafficking problem within Russia, escalating in the context of Russia’s significant increase in labor migration. Official and unofficial statistics estimate there are between five and 12 million foreign workers in Russia. Foreign laborers work primarily in construction, housing and utilities, and as public transport drivers, seasonal agricultural workers, tailors and garment workers in underground garment factories, and vendors at marketplaces and shops. Many of these migrant workers experienced exploitative labor conditions characteristic of trafficking cases, such as withholding of identity documents, nonpayment for services rendered, physical abuse, or extremely poor living conditions. During the year, workers from Russia and other countries in Europe, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia—including Vietnam and North Korea—were subjected to forced labor in Russia. Instances of labor trafficking have been reported in the construction, manufacturing, agricultural, textile, grocery store, maritime, and domestic service industries, as well as in forced begging, waste sorting, and street sweeping. Organized crime syndicates from Russia sometimes play a role in exploiting labor migrants. There were reports of Russian citizens facing forced labor abroad.

There were also reports of children and women from Europe (predominantly Ukraine and Moldova), Southeast Asia (primarily Vietnam), Africa, and Central Asia being subjected to sex trafficking in Russia. Law enforcement cases from the reporting year indicate forced prostitution occurs in brothels, hotels, and saunas, among other locations; certain traffickers advertised the sexual services of some minors over the internet. In 2014, Russian women and children were reportedly victims of sex trafficking in Russia and abroad, including in Northeast Asia, Europe, Central Asia, Africa, the United States, and the Middle East.

According to official sources, in previous years, there were criminal cases involving Russian officials suspected of allegedly facilitating trafficking in Russia, for instance by facilitating victims’ entry into Russia, providing protection to traffickers, and returning victims to their exploiters. Employers sometimes bribe Russian officials to avoid enforcement of penalties for engaging illegal workers. According to the Federal Migration Service, under a state-to-state agreement, the North Korean government sends approximately 20,000 North Korean citizens to Russia annually for work in a variety of sectors, including logging in Russia’s Far East; reportedly many of these North Korean citizens are subjected to conditions of forced labor.

The Government of Russia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government referred 73 trafficking victims to an international organization where they received care; however, the government lacked a national action plan to combat trafficking, a coordinating authority for anti-trafficking efforts, and funding in the federal and local budgets for trafficking prevention and victim protection. The government took no steps to fulfill commitments to implement a Program of Cooperation between Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Member States against Trafficking in Persons or to create an interagency committee to address trafficking. The government lacked a systematic process for the identification of victims or their referral to care, though reports indicated the government identified and assisted a limited number of victims on an ad hoc basis. Prosecutions remained low compared with the scope of Russia’s trafficking problem.


Develop formal national procedures to guide law enforcement and other government officials, including labor inspectors and health officials, in identifying and referring 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 investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict traffickers, respecting due process, and investigate and criminally punish government officials complicit in trafficking; establish a national rapporteur as a central coordinator for government anti-trafficking efforts; create a national anti-trafficking action plan; increase efforts to identify and assist both sex and labor trafficking victims, particularly among exploited labor migrants in Russia; implement a formal policy to ensure identified trafficking victims are not punished or detained in deportation centers for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; provide victims access to legal alternatives to deportation to countries where they face hardship or retribution; take steps to investigate allegations and prevent the use of forced labor in construction projects and North Korean-operated labor camps; create a central repository for information on investigation, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing data for trafficking cases; and increase efforts to raise public awareness of both sex and labor trafficking.


The government demonstrated law enforcement efforts during the reporting period, although such efforts continued to be inadequate compared to the estimated occurrence of trafficking in the country. Articles 127.1 and 127.2 of the Russian criminal code prohibit both sex trafficking and forced labor, although they also cover non-trafficking offenses. Officials used other criminal statutes to prosecute trafficking offenders, such as Articles 240 and 241 for involvement in or organizing prostitution. Article 127 prescribes punishments of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

In 2014, the government investigated under Article 127.1 three potential sex trafficking suspects and two potential labor trafficking suspects, compared with 15 potential sex trafficking suspects and 17 labor trafficking cases in 2013. The government reported prosecuting three defendants in two cases of sex trafficking and three defendants in one case of forced labor in 2014, compared with 18 sex trafficking prosecutions and four labor trafficking prosecutions in 2013. Russian authorities reported they often charged sex trafficking cases under Articles 240 and 241, addressing the inducement to and organization of prostitution, as the elements of those crimes were often easier to prove. The government provided no public information on how many cases involved forced, as opposed to voluntary, prostitution. In 2014, the government reported 14 traffickers were convicted under Article 127.1, the article typically used for sex trafficking crimes. Nine traffickers were convicted of the use of slave labor under Article 127.2, compared with 28 defendants convicted under Article 127.1 and four convicted under Article 127.2 in 2013. The government reported eight traffickers were sentenced to imprisonment, and 15 were given suspended sentences. In 2013, 23 offenders were sentenced to imprisonment and nine received suspended sentences. Sentences ranged from two to 11 years’ imprisonment, compared with up to 13 years’ imprisonment in 2013. In some regions of Russia, experts reported authorities ignored or failed to pursue cases of trafficking.

During the reporting period, the government sought an amendment to Article 151 (Involvement of a Minor in the Commission of Antisocial Actions) to close a legislative loophole that allowed adults who exploit children for begging—a common practice throughout Russia—to avoid criminal liability. Russian authorities reportedly collaborated with some foreign law enforcement bodies on the investigation of transnational trafficking cases. The government extradited a man to Uzbekistan for subjecting an Uzbek man to forced labor. In contrast with the previous year, the Ministry of Internal Affairs—the lead law enforcement agency in the majority of trafficking cases—did not conduct training for government officials. The North Korean government continued to export workers for bilateral contracts with Russia and other foreign governments. Despite credible reports of slave-like conditions of North Koreans working in Russia, the Russian government did not report any investigations into such situations. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.


The government continued to demonstrate minimal progress in efforts to protect human trafficking victims during the reporting period, as a majority of foreign labor trafficking victims remained outside the scope of victim protection. Although the government referred 73 trafficking victims to an international organization where they received care, government-funded care was not available for the vast majority of victims in the country. Authorities routinely detained and deported possible victims with no effort to identify them as victims or refer them to care. The government did not develop or employ a formal system to guide officials in proactive identification of victims or their referral to available services. The government did not share official statistics on the number of victims identified or assisted by the government or NGOs. An international organization identified and assisted 170 trafficking victims, including 87 men, 65 women, and 18 children.

One of the agencies most frequently in contact with potential victims, the Federal Migration Service (FMS), did not have the authority to investigate suspected cases of trafficking, which resulted in victims being punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to this crime. Russian authorities charged some suspected victims with residing illegally in Russian territory without proper papers and reportedly deported victims without offering assistance. Although a law on temporary residency provided the opportunity for a person officially recognized as a trafficking victim to apply for an adjustment of pre-existing temporary residence permits, there were no reports any victims received such a benefit. This law did not apply to any trafficking victims who were illegally present in Russia. There were otherwise no trafficking-specific legal alternatives to deportation for foreign victims.

The government did not publicly report any funding or programs for specific assistance to victims, and the government did not verify how many victims benefited from funding or programs intended for other general purposes, such as witness protection, child protection, or government crisis centers. The crisis centers were unlikely to accept victims not registered in the district in which the center was located. The government did not entitle foreign victims, the largest group in Russia, to access state-provided rehabilitative services. No ministry acknowledged responsibility for or agreed to use ministerial budgets to create and operate shelters for trafficking victims or to create and sustain a national victim referral mechanism. In April 2013, the Russian Red Cross opened a foreign-funded eight-bed shelter for trafficking victims in a space granted by the St. Petersburg municipal government. The shelter has cared for 35 victims since its opening, including victims from Afghanistan, Belarus, Nigeria, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Somalia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. In Moscow, an international organization partnered with the Russian Orthodox Church to establish a shelter outside the city for medium to long-term assistance and counseling. In the second half of 2014, an international organization entered into an agreement with Moscow City authorities to permit the sheltering of trafficking victims at a city homeless shelter and an associated youth center, which provided more locations for law enforcement to interview victims and for repatriation arrangements to be made.


The Russian government demonstrated limited efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. In June 2014, a Federation Council Deputy submitted a bill to significantly increase the penalties for inducement to prostitution, organization of brothels, and advertisement of sexual services; the bill would increase the maximum sentence for these crimes to 10 years’ imprisonment, as opposed to a fine of 2,000 to 2,500 rubles ($30-$40). The Duma Committee for Criminal Legislation had not received the bill for review at the end of the reporting period. The government made no efforts to develop public awareness of forced labor or sex trafficking. The government did not have a body to monitor its anti-trafficking activities or make periodic assessments measuring its performance. The government did not take efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. It declined an offer from an international organization to provide anti-trafficking training to the foreign diplomatic community in Moscow.