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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prostitution Abroad Leads to Death for 4 Russians

German police, faced with an influx of prostitutes from Eastern Europe, identified four victims of a Frankfurt slaying as Russian prostitutes Tuesday.

Police found the owner of a swank sex club, his wife and four prostitutes strangled to death in a villa near the Frankfurt banking district on Monday, police spokesman Manfred Ullhardt said in a telephone interview.

The four prostitutes, aged 18 through 28, were all from St. Petersburg, he added.

The mysterious killing highlights a recent boom in Russian prostitution in Western Europe. The easing of travel restrictions has enabled many Russian prostitutes to opt for better-paying jobs in the West, but others who were invited to work as waitresses or dancers have been forced to work as prostitutes in underground brothels as well.

A German acquaintance of the Hungarian club owner, accompanied by two Russian women, alerted police after he was unable to enter the house and spotted one of the bodies in the basement of the villa, Ullhardt said.

Police still had no clue about the murderers or their possible motive, but Ullhardt said Russian mafia could be involved. All were strangled but there were no signs of violence or forced entry, he added.

It was not clear whether the Russian victims had German visas or work permits. The club had operated illegally but Frankfurt police have tolerated discreet brothels that employ up to four prostitutes, Ullhardt said.

A deputy spokesman, Peter Borchardt, said that Frankfurt police had noticed an increase in the number of prostitutes from Russia, Poland, Rumania and other East European countries, but added there was no indication that Russian organized crime was actively involved in the business.

In Berlin, organized gangs have forced or induced East European women into prostitution for several years, Borchardt said.

At the Russian branch of Interpol, bureau chief Yury Melnikov said that Russian authorities could do little to counter the export of prostitutes.

"We can't stop people from leaving Russia," he said, shifting the responsibility to Western embassies for granting visas to Russian prostitutes, and to Western police for failing to crack down.

Some countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, where prostitution has long been legalized, grant visas for Russian women who are invited to work as prostitutes as long as they can show a German or Dutch work permit.

Melnikov said that Russian women often are invited to work as strippers or waitresses but end up working as prostitutes.

A spokesman for the German federal police said that there was no department looking into illegal prostitution, and could not provide any statistics.

Turkey is another popular destination for Russian prostitutes, who are nicknamed "Natashas" there.