July 20, 2022 – By RFE/RL
The United States has placed Russia on a list of countries engaged in human trafficking or forced labor, the U.S. State Department said on July 19.
Russia was also placed on a list of countries whose security forces or government-backed armed groups recruit or use child soldiers.
Russia appears throughout the department’s annual report on human trafficking, which assesses how 188 countries and territories, including the United States, are performing in terms of preventing trafficking, protecting victims, and prosecuting traffickers.
The U.S. State Department said Russia is especially prominent in a new section of the report titled State-Sponsored Trafficking in Persons because of its activities in Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said currently there are nearly 25 million trafficking victims worldwide and expressly commented on those from Ukraine.
“Millions of Ukrainians have had to flee their homes…some leaving the country altogether, most with just what they were able to carry,” Blinken told a ceremony as he presented the report. “That makes them highly vulnerable to exploitation.”
In addition to Russia, the state-sponsored trafficking section lists Afghanistan, Burma, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and five other countries with a “documented ‘policy or pattern’ of human trafficking,” forced labor in government-affiliated sectors, and sexual slavery in government camps.
The report also contains a separate list of 12 countries that employ or recruit child soldiers. It included Russia and a number of the other countries that are on the new state-sponsors list.
The report’s individual country chapters detailed the scale of trafficking in each. The Russia chapter said Moscow was “actively complicit in the forced labor” of North Korean migrant workers, including by issuing visas to them in an apparent bid to circumvent UN resolutions demanding their repatriation.
It also cited reports that after seizing parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region in 2014, Russia-backed separatists used children to work at checkpoints and serve in other jobs, including as combatants.
In addition, it cited reports that Russian-led forces have forced thousands of Ukrainians, including children, through “filtration camps,” where they are compelled to accept Russian passports before being transported to remote areas of Russia.
The Russian Embassy in Washington did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the allegations in the report, according to Reuters.
Blinken said the United States is committed to fighting human trafficking because it destabilizes societies, undermines economies, harms workers, enriches those who exploit the people who are trafficked, undercuts legitimate business, and “most fundamentally, because it is so profoundly wrong.”