At the same time, it’s easier for Ukrainians to communicate in Russia – they know the language, they understand the mentality and they may have acquaintances.
Antimonik recalls that the situation with Ukrainians being trafficked was difficult in the 2000s, when there were in fact many migrants from Ukraine in Russia. Then, it was made easier for Ukrainians to enter Europe, and the number of cases dropped sharply. A small surge occurred only in 2014 as people fled the occupied Donbass. Now, the flow of refugees from Ukraine to Europe is more intense, meaning, in her view, that the risk of human trafficking is higher there.
“Human trafficking exists in all countries regardless of the level of development and generates the second highest [illicit] revenues after drug trafficking,” says Antimonik. “True, law enforcement agencies in Europe have more resources to root out such crimes, but this doesn’t mean that the risks there are much less than in Russia. Besides, generally there are a lot of migrants and refugees in Russia, and I don’t think that human traffickers will especially go after Ukrainians.”
Experts describe various “red flags” indicating that it’s better not to have anything to do with a person offering you help: he doesn’t have identity documents, he can’t say exactly where you’re going, he doesn’t allow contact with relatives, he takes your passport or takes photos of it without explaining why.
“Along with other feminists, we helped create a checklist to reduce the risks of human trafficking,” says Gelya Bessmertnaya. “[…] these rules must be repeated all the time – first one volunteer repeats them, then another, then a third. Whatever condition a person is in, they must remember and observe these rules for their own safety.”Lonely man looking to meet Ukrainian woman
“I’ll take in a [female] refugee from Ukraine. Young, healthy, beautiful, hard-working” – since the war started, the Russian media has called attention
to dozens of such ads on the social network VKontakte. Russian men offer Ukrainian women shelter and financial stability. Expectations vary from “just getting to know each other” to “accompanying me on business trips and always being on call” and “keeping a two-room apartment clean and cooking.” Many don’t conceal the fact that they’re counting on a sexual relationship, both implicitly ("I'll rent half the sofa") and explicitly ("you’ll have to share the bed”).
Human rights activists are sure that organized traffickers are behind even “innocent” posts. Yet even if it’s just an ordinary man convinced that he is making a noble gesture and not a criminal gang that makes money off prostitution, the relationship will certainly lead to exploitation: a specific type or mixed.
A [female] refugee can be used for sexual services, housework and gardening, to care for sick and elderly relatives. In one ad, a 35-year-old resident of Arkhangelsk Region didn’t rule out the possibility of a romantic relationship while offering Ukrainians to at first “take on the role of nanny” for his two-year-old son.
Antimonik says: “From the beginning it’s about power and discrimination – a man chooses a woman who will be unequal. In Russian society, there’s a lot of violence, both domestic and sexual, and it’s not surprising that Russian men are using this opportunity to realize their violent desires…”