Two groups devoted to rescuing and repatriating victims of human trafficking from Russia announced on Monday that a help line will open in the US next month.
   
"I think the trafficking situation here is enormous," said Juliette Engel, founding director of the MiraMed Institute, which provides social programmes for orphaned children and trafficking victims in Russia.
   
Engel estimated that thousands of Russian and former Soviet bloc women were trafficked into the US each year, although she did not have precise numbers.
   
"I just saw a babushka (grandma) wearing a billboard, marching up and down the streets of Moscow saying 'Great jobs for sexy girls in Chicago'," Engel told a forum at the Johns Hopkins Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies to discuss the problem.
   
International trade

Engel described Russian websites with one advert in English reading "cheap women, you can fit three in a room, they'll serve 10 men a night" and another in Russian saying "great jobs overseas, have your own apartment, don't pay for
anything".
   
After more than a year of planning, MiraMed and the Angel Coalition, a consortium of non-governmental organisations throughout Russia, opened the first toll-free international hotline in Germany, Holland and Belgium about a month ago.
   
Its extension to the US means that specially trained operators - including psychologists - in Moscow will be on hand 24-hours a day to receive calls from Russian-speaking victims and their families or friends.
   
Thousands of victims

Using a sophisticated data base developed by MiraMed, callers will be instantly referred to law enforcement agencies and other groups ready to help them wherever they are.
   
Cards are being printed with the US toll-free number 1-888-222-5673 and other information in Russian on them. The number is expected to go live in March.
   
Between 14,000 and 17,000 victims of trafficking enter the US each year, coming from many different countries including those in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
   
US officials have documented cases of Latvian girls trafficked for sexual slavery in Chicago and Ukrainian girls taken to Los Angeles and Maryland.