Yuri Alexeyev, the acting deputy chief of the Interior Ministry`s investigative committee, said tens of thousands of people are victims of human trafficking in Russia each year, with many women being forced into prostitution and others into slave labour.
Alexeyev said many victims end up in human trafficking rings when they travel abroad to find work through travel and employment agencies. He said the government must impose greater control over such firms.
Since Russia amended its criminal code in December 2003 to include penalties for human trafficking and the use of slave labour, 23 criminal cases have been opened and seven traffickers have been convicted, Alexeyev said.
Some 63 per cent of such crimes are committed by men and 37 per cent by women, he said. Meanwhile, 90 per cent of the victims are women aged 15-25, most of whom are forced into prostitution.
Russia is both the origin and the destination for trafficking in humans. Russian women are trafficked to wealthier western countries, while many victims from poorer ex-Soviet states end up in Russia.
Russian police officials have previously said that an estimated 50,000 women and children were trafficked from Russia and ex-Soviet republics to the United States in 2002.
Citing United Nations statistics, Alexeyev said that some 500,000 women from ex-Soviet states have become victims of trafficking rings since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Moscow, AP, 08.09.2005