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For Russian prostitutes, the World Cup and its testosterone-charged fans could have meant big business. But in reality many will stay away from host cities after warnings from police, the head of the country's only sex workers' group told AFP. Irina Maslova said a police crackdown will make it impossible for the majority of workers in the illegal trade to operate during the tournament, despite shock headlines about hordes of fans looking to pay for sex. Only those with a significant "krysha" the Russian for "roof" , that sees them pay a percentage of their earnings to officials and police in return for protection, will be able to operate as usual.
Maria -- a worker in a "salon" in Saint Petersburg, one of Russia's 11 host cities -- told AFP she had heard of several other such businesses closing recently, most likely because they had failed to come to an arrangement with authorities. President Vladimir Putin has described Russian prostitutes as the "best in the world" and the country was notorious for its sex industry in the s.
But in recent years has seen a clean-up, with sex workers reporting reduced demand and being forced to slash prices after a financial crash in Previous events such as the Sochi Winter Olympics have seen police impose harsher fines on sex workers and in some cases imprison them for the duration of the competition, said the activist.
Maslova was held in solitary confinement herself for 48 hours when police launched a cleanup operation ahead of the year anniversary of Saint Petersburg in Other women were rounded up and dumped up to 60 kilometers outside the city, leading to the formation of the Silver Rose group to promote workers' rights.
But those in the legal sex industry -- such as strippers and the owner of a newly opened sex doll hotel -- told AFP they were expecting the World Cup to bring a boost to a sector that has been badly hit in recent years.