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Only drug dealing is more profitable than sex trafficking as far as illegal activities go, Timofeyeva said.
Statistics are scarce, but data from Russia's Interior Ministry obtained by The Moscow Times contained about 900 cases of human trafficking, exploitation and involvement in prostitution over the first nine months of 2013.
India was the runaway leader with 14 million slaves, while Mauritania had the highest percentage of slave population (4 percent). Department of State downgraded Russia to Tier 3, the lowest in the ranking, in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report in 2013.
The report did not differentiate between types of forced labor, but said the sex industry was among the main employers of Russian slaves. Despite stereotypes, even well-educated, world-savvy people can become victims of sex trafficking, Timofeyeva said.
Only one in nine such crimes ever comes to light, criminologists estimate, which indicates that at least 8,000 people are currently in sexual slavery in Russia.
The figure is likely larger by an order of magnitude, given that most such cases involve more than one victim.
Experts named Ukraine, Moldova and the Baltic states — all post-Soviet regions — as the main suppliers of sex slaves to Russia.
A new rising trend is also seeing ethnic diasporas in Russia import women from their native countries, including Vietnam, China, the Central Asian republics and African nations, to work in their brothels.