Centered in Moscow and the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, the networks trafficking women run east to Japan and Thailand, where thousands of young Slavic women now work against their will as prostitutes, and west to the Adriatic Coast and beyond. The routes are controlled by Russian crime gangs based in Moscow. Even when they do not specifically move the women overseas, they provide security, logistical support, liaison with brothel owners in many countries and, usually, false documents.
Women often start their hellish journey by choice. Seeking a better life, they are lured by local advertisements for good jobs in foreign countries at wages they could never imagine at home.
In Ukraine alone, the number of women who leave is staggering. As many as 400,000 women under 30 have gone in the past decade, according to their country’s Interior Ministry. The Thai Embassy in Moscow, which processes visa applications from Russia and Ukraine, says it receives nearly 1,000 visa applications a day, most of these from women.
Israel is a fairly typical destination. Prostitution is not illegal here, although brothels are, and with 250,000 foreign male workers — most of whom are single or here without their wives — the demand is great. Police officials estimate that there are 25,000 paid sexual transactions every day. Brothels are ubiquitous. . . .
Many end up like Irina. Stunned and outraged by the sudden order to prostitute herself, she simply refused. She was beaten and raped before she succumbed. Finally she got a break. The brothel was raided and she was brought here to Neve Tirtsa in Ramle, the only women’s prison in Israel. Now, like hundreds of Ukrainian and Russian women with no documents or obvious forgeries, she is waiting to be sent home.
”I don’t think the man who ruined my life will even be fined,” she said softly, slow tears filling her enormous green eyes. ”You can call me a fool for coming here. That’s my crime. I am stupid. A stupid girl from a little village. But can people really buy and sell women and get away with it? Sometimes I sit here and ask myself if that really happened to me, if it can really happen at all.”
Then, waving her arm toward the muddy prison yard, where Russian is spoken more commonly than Hebrew, she whispered one last thought: ”I’m not the only one, you know. They have ruined us all.” . . .
The Tropicana, in Tel Aviv’s bustling business district, is one of the busiest bordellos. The women who work there, like nearly all prostitutes in Israel today, are Russian. Their boss, however, is not.
”Israelis love Russian girls,” said Jacob Golan, who owns this and two other clubs, and spoke willingly about the business he finds so ”successful.” ”They are blonde and good-looking and different from us,” he said, chuckling as he drew his hand over his black hair. ”And they are desperate. They are ready to do anything for money.”