Staunton, July 27 – The pandemic and the Ukrainian war, which has led to even more rapid migration from Russian villages to Russian cities, has pushed up the number of people living under conditions of slavery to “almost two million,” according to the international anti-slavery human rights organization Walk Free.
The situation is especially bad in the North Caucasus and southern Russia but is found throughout the country, that organization and Russian experts say; and it is compounded by the fact that Russian officials deny there is a problem and seldom prosecute anyone for slavery (kavkazr.com/a/zhertvy-nischety-rabstvo-na-yuge-i-kavkaze-posle-nachala-voyny/32522118.html).
Officials don’t maintain statistics and claim that it is rare. Last year, for example, the Russian government told the UN that there had been only eight cases of slavery in Russia in the previous 12 months, thus downplaying this plague just as they do domestic violence (tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CAT%2FC%2FRUS%2F7&Lang=en).
But in fact, Russians arriving in cities from rural areas are often recruited to work and then forced to do so without pay. The most mediagenic cases involve prostitution and sex slavery but those forced to work for free or without compensation in ordinary factories are far more numerous. Also numerous are cases of such recruits being sent to work on farms.
Officials don’t want to invest the resources necessary to investigate cases of slavery and are reluctant to challenge employers. That means that only independent groups like Alternative, which exists only on donations and is often at odds with the police are left to try to help those Russians who fall into slavery.