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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 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.
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".