Back to blog

City In Focus: Moscow


A middle-aged Russian man drives along the outskirts of Moscow on a snowy night, the stench of vodka still on his breath. He spots a woman standing on the side of the road and immediately turns down that dark road. Driving past her he continues driving deep into the cold forest where the ambient light grows dim. His car pulls to a stop near a van with many faces peering out. It’s packed with girls from Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Nigeria.

A voice shouts and the girls quickly file out of the van in short skirts and stiletto heels, standing awkwardly in a lineup on the snowy ground. The man examines each girl, selects one to take with him and drives off with her for the night. The remaining girls reenter the van, awaiting the next “client.” Moments later another set of headlights appears in the distance, and the cycle continues.

Night after night, this is a very familiar scene in Moscow, where prostitution is technically illegal but where the sex trade still thrives.

How did these women get there?

Everyone Has a Story

One young woman, Tasha, was raised in an orphanage. At age sixteen her friend introduced her to some men she thought she could trust. They suggested they go to Moscow, a land of wealth and opportunity…

“When they brought us here I was shocked. I wept, shouted, and tried to fight. Nothing helped. I was beaten and threatened. I screamed that I wouldn’t be working for them. No way. It was all wasted. I had nothing left to do. They threatened they would tell my family. I didn’t want my mum or anyone to find out what I was doing, and why I was brought there. Because she would have disowned me. I worked for these men for five years.” 1

Every prostituted woman in Moscow has her own story, but they all share a common denominator—they all came from a situation of vulnerability.

Every prostituted woman in Moscow has her own story, but they all share a common denominator—they all came from a situation of vulnerability.

On the busy streets, in dingy apartments, in hotel rooms, and in the forests of Moscow, countless women spend their days and nights being exploited in the commercial sex industry. The market for women’s bodies is flourishing after an economic boom in the country and scores of men line up night after night to pay for sex.

Although there are no official statistics, unofficial sources have cited that there are three million women being sold for sex throughout Russia.2 Perhaps tens of thousands of those women are being sold in Moscow’s flesh market, and with the FIFA World Cup now taking place, the demand for illicit sex in this city is sure to rise.

Hoping For a Better Life

Like in other countries around the world, many of the of the women working in Moscow’s commercial sex industry are tricked into coming on the promise of an education or a well-paying job. Some are simply kidnapped from their hometowns and forced to work in prostitution. Still others are coerced by life circumstances beyond their control, like poverty, homelessness, and a history of abuse.

Compounding the problem is the fact that approximately 15,000 children age out or run away from Russian orphanages each year and many of them have no place to go, or means to earn money. Tragically, these orphaned children are extremely vulnerable to being groomed and recruited by traffickers.

Migrants are another vulnerable group that are consistently targeted by Russian traffickers.

Christine, a 27-year-old Nigerian woman, told CNN reporters how she got a painful 4-inch scar across her right cheek. She was lured to Russia from Nigeria by her uncle who promised to give her a college education, but instead he sent her to a Moscow brothel. When she tried to run away, her uncle cut her face. “He made me know that if I don’t cooperate with him, something bad will happen to me—that if I made an attempt to run away, it would end in taking my life… I was really scared” she said.3

Love Russia

It’s women like Christine that the Exodus Cry team and local churches have set out to help escape from a life of sexual exploitation. During the World Cup, June 13—July 14, Exodus Cry is deploying a large outreach and intercession team to Moscow for the “LuBlue” Love Russia outreach campaign.

Watch this video to learn more about what we’re doing across Moscow:

For 31 days the team will be reaching out on the streets, in hotels, in strip clubs, and in the forests where women are sold. They’ll also be doing texting outreaches to women in the sex industry and even reaching out to the johns who purchase them.

They will be partnering with other national anti-trafficking organizations in Russia such as anti-slavery groups Alternative and Nevoli, including daily airport outreaches in collaboration with immigration and the police. These efforts involve interviewing any identifiable or suspected victims upon their entry to Russia and connecting them with the assistance and services required if they are being trafficked.

In addition, the team will be conducting important prevention programs at orphanages in and around Moscow, educating children and adolescents about the dangers of trafficking and exploitation in the sex industry. They will be conducting regular hands-on trainings for those who want to learn about combating commercial sexual exploitation and reaching women caught in the sex trade. Our film Nefarious: Merchant of Souls will be screened at churches in Moscow, continuing to educate and raise awareness about the issue.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, the team will be hosting a 24/7 prayer and worship for the entirety of the World Cup, in partnership with the House of Prayer in Moscow, seeking His presence and praying for God’s purposes to be released in Russia. Some have said that this 24/7 prayer gathering will be the longest standing prayer meeting in Russia’s recent history.

Please join us in prayer during the World Cup, for the thousands trapped in Moscow’s commercial sex industry, as well as the millions of women being exploited in Russia’s sex industry.

You can track with our team in Moscow and get daily updates via our Instagram Stories by following us on Instagram: @exoduscry.

Download the prayer guide.

Learn more about the situation in Moscow through this video created by Hope Dies Last, the primary organization we’re working with in Moscow.

Pipeline of Human Trafficking Short from Hope Dies Last on Vimeo.

Footnotes

  • 1. Video: The Pipeline of Human Trafficking
  • 2. The Moscow Times, August 26th, 2015 from http://www.fondationscelles.org/en/prostitution/prostitution-by-country
  • http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/07/18/russia.prostitution/#cnnSTCVideo

Related Posts