Moscow has expressed "indignation" about the possibility of being hit by U.S. sanctions after Washington gave Russia the lowest possible rating on the fight against human trafficking.
The U.S. State Department report
issued on June 19 says Russia, Uzbekistan, and Iran received failing marks because they have not addressed human trafficking and have no concrete plans to do so.
Citing statistics from the Migration Research Center, the report says forced labor remains the predominant human-trafficking problem in Russia.
It says about 1 million people in Russia are exposed to "exploitative" labor conditions, including the withholding of documents, nonpayment for services, physical abuse, and extremely poor living conditions.
Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's human rights commissioner, said on June 20 the report was politically biased.
"Unfriendly steps will entail proportionate retaliation," Dolgov said.
China's Foreign Ministry described U.S. criticism of Beijing's record as biased, "unilateral," and "arbitrary."
"China has made tangible efforts and achieved remarkable progress in fighting domestic and transnational human trafficking. China is willing to have communication and cooperation in cracking down on human trafficking with the United States and other countries based on equality and mutual benefit," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on June 20 in Beijing.
"But we firmly oppose making irresponsible accusations against China on this issue. We think the U.S. should take an objective and impartial view of China's efforts, and stop making unilateral or arbitrary judgments of China."
Afghanistan Stays On List
In Uzbekistan, the report noted that internal labor trafficking remains prevalent during the annual cotton harvest, when children and adults are forced by the government to work in the cotton fields.
Countries that received the State Department's second-worst rating include Afghanistan, Ukraine, Albania, Belarus, and Turkmenistan.
Those countries are on a "watch list" because although their number of trafficking victims is increasing, the governments are making significant efforts to combat the problem.
Afghanistan remained on the watch list for a fourth consecutive year, but was spared an automatic downgrade because its government has developed a plan to combat trafficking.
The U.S. State Department says internal trafficking of children is rife in Afghanistan. It documented forced child labor in the brick- and carpet-making industries, as well as domestic servitude, street begging, the sex-slave trade, and drug smuggling.
Based on reporting by AFP, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax