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TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN FROM RUSSIA AND OTHER CIS STATES NUMBERS IN THE MILLIONS. The number of sales of girls and women for prostitution from Russia, Ukraine, and the other post-Soviet countries reached 10 million over the last decade, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 February. According to the daily, women from the CIS are being exploited as sex slaves in over 30 countries, particularly in Germany, Poland, Turkey, the U.S., South Korea, Japan, the Middle East, and Latin America. The problem is compounded by the lack of legislation in Russia and the other CIS states that would make the trafficking of women a crime, as the governments argue that the women themselves enter the sex industry for financial reasons. VY

POLL SAYS OUR UKRAINE, COMMUNISTS LEAD ELECTION RACE. A poll conducted by the Ukrainian Institute of Social Studies and the Social Monitoring Center from 7-9 February among 2,012 respondents found that if the parliamentary election had been held at that time, Our Ukraine led by former Premier Viktor Yushchenko would have obtained 19.7 percent of the vote, while Petro Symonenko's Communist Party would have garnered 13.3 percent, Interfax reported on 19 February. The 4 percent voting threshold would have also been overcome by the Social Democratic Party (United) -- with 5.6 percent of the vote; the Green Party -- 5.6 percent; Women for the Future -- 5 percent; and For a United Ukraine -- 4.4 percent. The groups below the 4 percent threshold were: the Natalya Vitrenko Bloc -- with 2.9 percent of the vote; the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc -- 2.5 percent; and the Socialist Party -- 2.4 percent. The reported margin of error in the poll was 2.2 percent. JM

UKRAINIAN POLITICIAN ACCUSES AUTHORITIES OF OVERSTATING POPULARITY OF PRO-PRESIDENTIAL BLOC. Yuriy Kostenko, the leader of the Ukrainian Popular Rukh, told UNIAN on 19 February that the statecontrolled media have recently publicized an intentionally overstated popularity rating of the pro-presidential bloc For a United Ukraine by saying it is supported by more than 9 percent of voters. According to Kostenko, real support for the bloc, as testified by opinion surveys, is around 4 percent. Kostenko noted that in recent years the authorities have perfected the technique of manipulating voter behavior through publishing misleading data about the relative popularity of various politicians. And he added: "This time the pro-presidential bloc For a United Ukraine is an evident example [of such manipulation in the media]. This is an attempt to persuade voters to accept the results that will be released by the Central Election Commission." Kostenko believes that the election law "minimizes" the possibility of rigging a vote count by the authorities as regards parties and blocs running in the countrywide constituency, but admits that such a possibility exists in single-seat constituencies. JM

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