Russia fired back Monday after the United States put it on a watch list for human trafficking for the ninth year in a row, saying the American government's report was biased and driven by politics.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the report is soft on the U.S. and its allies, painting them as "straight-A students" while vilifying its opponents, RIA Novosti reported.
“The United States has been and remains the world's largest human trafficking ‘importer,’ ” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich wrote on Twitter, calling the report a “politically motivated document” that was meant to back up greater spending on human rights abroad.
According to the annual U.S. State Department report, released last week, forced labor and sex trafficking of Russians taken abroad and foreigners brought to Russia have continued, The report also cites anecdotal reports of “signs of forced labor” at construction sites for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Though Russia has come up with a plan to combat the problem, so far “the government has not shown evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking,” the State Department said. Trafficking victims have little protection in Russia, the report says.
The report divides countries into four categories based on what they have done to try to eliminate the problem; Russia landed in the second-lowest category, a watch list that also includes Afghanistan, China and Lebanon. The United States was in the top category, with the report saying that although trafficking occurs in this country, including "increasing reports of children recruited into criminal activity," the U.S. "fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking."
Lukashevich singled out the anecdotal claim of forced labor at the Sochi construction sites, saying it “confirms this document’s generally biased and politicized nature,” according to the Interfax news agency.
That complaint fell flat with one organization that fights human trafficking. Russia has done little in the face of "obvious evidence" that as many as a million people are exposed to exploitative labor conditions, said Not for Sale, a California-based group that aims to combat human trafficking and slavery.
"Russia is choosing to publicly politicize their critique of the [State Department] report rather than recognize their responsibility as a government to address the real problems that are going on, and their inaction to address them," Not for Sale President David Batstone said in a statement Monday.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles