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Kyrgyz Women 'Rescued From Slavery' In Russian Sweatshop

BISHKEK -- Thirteen Kyrgyz women have been "rescued from slavery" at a sweatshop in Russia, a police official in the Central Asian country says.

Kyrgyz Interior Ministry spokesman Bakyt Seitov told RFE/RL on March 19 that the women's employer confiscated their passports and restricted their movements.

They managed to use a mobile phone to inform their relatives of the conditions they faced at a sewing factory in Ryazan, 185 kilometers southeast of Moscow, he said.

According to Seitov, Kyrgyz and Russian law enforcement officials worked together to find the women at the plant, where dozens of Vietnamese nationals were also working.

He said that an unidentified 39-year-old man in Bishkek had organized the women's trip to Ryazan, promising them jobs at the factory.

"But the owner of the factory, a Russian national, took the Kyrgyz women's passports so that they could not leave the place and used them as slaves."

He said they were sometimes forced to work at night and were fined 5,000 rubles ($85) if they returned late from brief lunch breaks.

A spokeswoman for the Kyrgyz Embassy in Moscow, Gulbarchyn Baiymbetova, told RFE/RL on March 20 that the women had been provided with the necessary assistance.

"The women have filed requests to receive compensations for their work, as well as moral and material damages," Baiymbetova said.

Seitov said the Russian authorities had launched an investigation into the factory's owner.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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