Krasnodar Sex Trade Booming

Organised crime and the influx of refugees have turned Krasnodar into the prostitution capital of the North Caucasus

Krasnodar Sex Trade Booming

Organised crime and the influx of refugees have turned Krasnodar into the prostitution capital of the North Caucasus

High unemployment, poverty and crime have transformed Krasnodar, a city with a million-strong population, into the biggest centre for the sex trade in the North Caucasus. Official silence is letting it continue that way.

The massive illegal business has been fuelled by the influx of refugees from all over the Caucasus into what is the one of the main urban centres in southern Russia.

Most of the prostitutes are poor Russians, many of them refugees, said Viktor Mozgovoi, a high-ranking police official. Armenian and Russian criminals control the business, although Chechens and gangsters from the neighbouring region of Adygeia are also moving into the market. While the resort city of Sochi has a thriving prostitution business in the summer months, Krasnodar, straddling the main transportation routes, supports the trade all the year round.

Prostitution in Krasnodar is a whole alternative economy, with different sectors inside it. I discovered this myself, taking a journey through the city's underworld. There are prostitutes in hotels and rent-boys, who stand on a street only 300 metres from the local city administration. Many of the city's "singles clubs", which at least pay taxes, have turned into centres of procurement.

At the lowest end of the scale are the "individualki" or "loners". With a journalist colleague, I set off driving down the main highway to Rostov to see them. Fifteen minutes later, we saw young women in suggestive clothing, touting for business by the roadside. "They work independently and don't have pimps," my friend explained to me. "Their task is to stop a passing car and end up earning money, mainly through oral sex."

"Some of them will get into a car for a bottle of beer and packet of cigarettes," said Aslambei Karimov, a taxi-driver, who travels around the region. "They are a lost generation, who aren't interested in anything except survival."

You can meet individualki at railway and bus stations, next to restaurants and hotels. On the whole, they are young girls, some of them even schoolgirls, who come to Krasnodar at weekends from neighbouring villages. They want to have a good time in discos and bars and, if possible, earn something for tights and make-up. As a rule, they do not name the price for their services and often end up deceived.

Another category are "family prostitutes". My neighbour, Marina, confessed to being one. "My husband ran away from debtors and I don't know where he's gone. I have two children by him. I am forced to keep myself and the children by having relations with three men, " she said. " One of them gives me money from time to time, the second pays for my mobile phone and the third helps me to keep my old house in a liveable condition."

Then there are organised brothels. In the paper Kubansky Perekryostok, or Kuban Crossroads, I found more than ten adverts. Ringing three of the numbers, I learned the prices. For a woman to come to your home for one hour costs 300 to 400 roubles (about ten to twelve US dollars.)

I made an "order" and 15 minutes later a blue Lada with four young women, aged approximately between 18 and 30, drew up. The driver threw open the door and said, "Make your choice!" I chose the eldest woman, who was gloomy and indifferent to what was going on.

Inside Galina cheered up and we talked for an hour in my kitchen. She said she was 27 with secondary education. She had worked as a sales-girl in a kiosk, in which the owner had sex with her and gave her only a small wage. Fleeing her boss, she ended up unemployed. Her father was in prison, her mother had taken to drink and her younger brother returned crippled from Chechnya. A school-friend, who had been doing this business for ten years, got Galina the job in the brothel.

Galina said she was satisfied with the money she earned, but frightened what would happen to her in the future. Talking to other prostitutes, I learned that between 20 and 40 young women work in the brothels, most of them from outside the city. Each has its own doctor, who checks them for venereal diseases.

Every woman serves between five and ten clients a day, with most of the money being taken by the brothel. Every day, it earns between 50,000 and 150,000 roubles. I calculated that, as there are around 20 in the city, their combined monthly income is around 100 million roubles, or almost 3.5 million dollars. There is not a single firm in this city earning a comparable income.

Yet, it seems, this calculation is too low. A Krasnodar police officer who deals with economic crimes, speaking anonymously, said that I had not appreciated the full scale of the problem - and its powerful backers.

"First of all, you have strongly underestimated the revenues from organised prostitution in the city," he said. "It is very big money and big bureaucrats from the region are involved in it. Our office possesses information, but can't do anything. None of the officials will talk with you on the topic, because a taboo has been placed on it 'from above'. So at the moment even our office is powerless on this issue."

Indeed, none of the town officials I approached was prepared to discuss Krasnodar's sex trade. The mayor Nikolai Priza would not grant an interview. A spokeswoman in the press centre of the regional legislative assembly, who declined to be quoted by name, gave me a long speech, explaining that first of all the State Duma in Moscow should pass a law on prostitution and then the local assembly would tackle the problem by passing its own legislation, taking into account local circumstances.

The head of the Interior Department of Krasnodar Region, Sergei Kucheruka, also refused to see me. The circle was complete. No one here was prepared to talk about the problem of prostitution.

Eduard Aslanov is a freelance journalist in Krasnodar.

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