Despite the antitrafficking legislation and the Russian government’s increased attention to the problem, there has been relatively little accomplished in practice (e. g. Duban 2006; Tiuriukanova 2006; U. S Department of State 2007). From the 2004 to 2007 TIP reports, for example, Russia remained on the Tier 2 watch list, meaning that, according to the U. S., the government has not fully complied with minimum standards, but is seen as making efforts toward meeting those standards.
Russia’s prosecution record is poor, even in comparison to its neighbors Ukraine and especially beleaguered Moldova. In 2004, trafficking cases initiated were limited to only sixteen of the eighty-nine regions in Russia and mostly to internal (Russian ethnic) cases of sexual exploitation trafficking, and the sentences were quite light (Tiuriukanova 2006, 78, 80). At the end of 2005, the Russian government declared that 80 human trafficking cases had been opened: 20 concerning forced labor and 60 sex trafficking.50 In 2006, police conducted 125 trafficking investigations, mostly sexual exploitation cases, with approximately 53 prosecutions and 13 convictions (U. S Department of State 2007). In 2007, Russia seems to be taking government involvement in trafficking slightly more seriously. In March, the Federal Security Services reported that they had broken a large trafficking ring—run by a Russian official—which was trafficking people from Southeast Asia and former Soviet states through Russia to Western Europe.51 A typical successful prosecution is the following:
Igor Khvan, an Uzbekistan citizen who resides in Primorye, was arrested in December 2004 for trafficking women from Uzbekistan. His two female assistants recruited young women in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, for hostess positions in Ussuriysk, Primorskiy Krai. Upon their arrival, Khvan took away the women’s passports and forced them to work in prostitution.
Khvan took all revenue from their activities, leaving the women an allowance of only $1.80 to $3.60 (47.7 to 95.4 rubles) a day for food. On January 25, the Ussuriysk Court sentenced Khvan to seven years in prison. His two associates were sentenced to the same term in Uzbekistan.52
Although there is no national analysis of the prosecuted cases, the evidence suggests that most prosecuted cases are for these kinds of small operations, and many are against non-Russians.
Part of the problem is inadequate training in how to investigate and prosecute such crimes, insufficient funding, and insufficient coordination of law enforcement and prosecutors’ offices (Duban 2006). There is also low priority placed on investigations in a context of limited staff and resources (Tiuriukanova 2006). Although the 2005 TIP report (U. S Department of State 2005) recounts the development of an antitrafficking training manual and a draft field manual, by all accounts local officers tend to still deny that trafficking is a problem in their jurisdictions. They argue, dismissively, that the women knew what they were getting themselves into, and misidentify victims’ refusal to cooperate as an indication of their criminal complicity. Despite anticorruption efforts, corruption is rampant; thus national reforms require little local change, and people’s trust in law enforcement remains low (Shelley and Orttung 2005, 172).
Resistance to implementing change is deeply embedded in law enforcement’s beliefs and practices. Since the Soviet collapse, prostitution and recruitment of women for traffickers appears to have been lucrative for a wide variety of government officials, from border guards to law enforcement officers and higher officials. For example, after a long U. S.-Russian meeting with the MIA on the problem of trafficking, several MIA administrators invited the American Firestone to relax with them, and offered him a prostitute.53 There was not even a pause to consider whether these prostitutes were there voluntarily, even more remarkable considering the U. S. antiprostitution stance at these events. (When Firestone refused, the Russian said, “I never know what to expect from you Americans.”) At the same time, at least in the Russian Far East, most law enforcement officials blame the women themselves, for example, suggesting that regulation should be targeted not against the recruiters or the men-clients, but against the trafficked women.
Even those whom the government totes out as experts on trafficking often express only limited concern for the women’s lives impacted by trafficking. Some when invited to contribute to materials compiled by the women’s crisis center go off on tangents, discussing such things as the demographic problem and the threat to Russia’s territorial integrity brought about by immigration of Eurasians into Russia. A key MIA official involved in many of these projects describes trafficking as a threat to the “national genetic fund” (Boris Gravrilov, e. g., in Rimasheevskaia
2005, 81). Repeating the victimized woman trope, another sympathetic MIA official sees trafficking as as a problem only for women who have lost their jobs and suffered from domestic violence.54