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Foreign Assistance Needed to Fight Human Trafficking in Russia and Ukraine

(Washington, DC--June 21, 2002) Human trafficking continues to be an acute problem in Ukraine and Russia, researchers from the region said in a RFE/RL briefing yesterday, stressing that foreign governments and international organizations need to continue funding and providing expertise to combat the problem.

Ukraine and Russia have become major suppliers of "human stock" to other countries and regions, according to Olga Pyshchulina, Associate Professor at the School of Sociology at the Kharkiv National University. Pyshchulina said the Ukrainian government has released no official statistics, but her own estimate is that roughly 200,000 people have been trafficked out of the country over the past few years, most of them women and children destined for sexual exploitation.

Russian officials do not to recognize human trafficking as a problem facing the country, Lyudmila Yerokhina, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the Vladivostok State University of Economics, said. In fact, there is no law identifying trafficking human beings as a crime.

The Ukrainian government, by contrast, undertook its first steps to stop the trafficking of women and children by adopting a government program three years ago, but failed to fund the initiative. A new law against human trafficking has also been adopted and added to the Ukrainian Criminal Code.

Pyshchulina and Yerokhina said that human trafficking in Russia and Ukraine can be successfully dealt with by conducting more research on the topic, increasing local awareness of the problem, and providing care to the returning victims. But, according to both experts, combating human trafficking in the region will not be possible without the continued funding and assistance of foreign governments and international bodies such as International Organization on Migration or the Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at the American University.