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Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev (file photo)

BISHKEK -- The Kyrgyz parliament voted to strip former President Almazbek Atambaev of immunity amid a growing power struggle in the poor Central Asian nation.

The lawmakers approved the resolution 100-to-5 amid claims Atambaev abused his powers while in office. The June 20 vote follows a rash of arrests of former officials close to Atambaev as his successor seeks to consolidate power.

Atambaev ruled Kyrgystan for a six-year term that ended until 2017, helping pass the reigns of power to his former prime minister, Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

While Atambaev expected Jeenbekov would continue his policies, his successor quickly turned against him.

A parliamentary commission this week accused Atambaev of six counts of misconduct, including corruption, prompting the June 20 vote to strip him of immunity.

The process of removing the former president's immunity could take two weeks, lawmaker Kanybek Imanaliev said.

The June 20 decision comes as Jeenbekov’s government pursues officials close to the former president.

Kyrgyz authorities earlier this month arrested Manasbek Arabaev, the ex-chief of the presidential office's department for judicial system reform, on corruption charges.

Sapar Isakov and Jantoro Satybaldiev, both of whom served as prime minister under Atambaev, have also been charged with corruption.

Last year, Kyrgyz officials arrested Adamkul Junusov, the former customs chief, and Ikramjan Ilmiyanov, a former adviser, on similar charges.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks during an event to release the 2019 Trafficking In Persons report at the State Department in Washington on June 20.

WASHINGTON -- The United States has again placed Russia among a list of countries, including South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, that it says are doing little to stop human trafficking within their borders.

In its annual Trafficking In Persons Report released on June 20, the State Department said Russian trafficking prosecutions are low despite reports of thousands of cases and that the country still lacks a national strategy to fight the problem.

“The number of victims identified by the [Russian] government remained negligible and authorities routinely deported potential forced labor victims without screening for signs of explanation and prosecuted sex trafficking victims for prostitution offenses,” the report said.

Russia and Belarus were the only European countries in the so-called Tier 3 list of nations that do not meet minimum standards to stop trafficking and are “not making significant efforts” to do so. China, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Papua New Guinea were among others.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called trafficking “a global issue that requires a global response” and said it occurs right in the center of Washington.

The report said that Russia did take some steps last year to address trafficking issues, including cutting the number of forced North Korean laborers, firing officials complicit in forced labor, and returning children from Syria and Iraq.

Russia has reported the number of North Koreans working in labor camps run by Pyongyang on its territory had declined last year from 30,000 to 11,500. The report said many of these individuals are subject to forced labor and called on the Russian government to end its labor agreements with North Korea.

The report cites a nongovernmental organization as stating that “tens of thousands” of trafficking-related cases were reported to law enforcement last year, but many are filed under different crimes, masking the size of the problem.

Russia’s Investigative Committee reported only 14 trafficking investigations in 2018 compared with 19 in the previous year, the report said. The country’s Supreme Court reported 21 convictions on trafficking charges, compared with 27 a year earlier. Some of the investigations and prosecutions involved baby-selling, the report said.

The government does not provide funding or programs for trafficking victims, leaving the problems of sheltering and helping them squarely on the shoulders of NGOs.

However, as the government has taken steps to limit the activities of NGOs, including labeling two of them as “foreign agents,” the last dedicated trafficking shelters closed in 2015 due to a lack of funding, the report said.

The state has cooperated with NGOs in busting trafficking rings, most notably during the World Cup held in Russia in 2018, the report said. As a result, 40 Nigerian citizens lured to Russia with promises of work during the international sporting event were freed.

Russia has as many as 12 million foreign workers -- many from Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan -- and they sometimes fall victim to forced labor, abuse, and sex trafficking.

The Russian government allowed Kyrgyzstan to appoint representatives to inspect companies employing migrant labor and law enforcement carried out scheduled and unannounced visits of such firms.

“While these raids took place with some regularity, the use of undocumented or forced labor remained widespread due to complacency and corruption,” the State Department said.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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