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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prostitutes Feel the Pinch From Crisis




Few sectors of the economy have been spared the ill effects of Russia's rampaging economic recession: Factory workers have been laid off, stockbrokers forced to surrender their mobile phones and bank clerks sent home on unpaid leave.


But now the crisis is even hitting the world's oldest profession, according to some of those who were plying their trade on Tverskaya Ulitsa this week.


Prostitutes can still be seen in large numbers at nighttime on the streets of the Russian capital. But, they say, business is not good.


"We are only getting half of the clients we used to," said Katya, a prostitute who was working Monday at one of the busiest red-light spots in town, outside the Hotel Moskva, which looks out onto the State Duma building.


Katya, who preferred not to give her second name, said she believed the drop in business was directly linked to the economic crash. She also noted that among the clients who were still coming to her, there were noticeably fewer "suits" f the well-paid employees of banks and private firms who in better times were happy to splash out between $100 and $200 at a time.


A guard who was keeping a protective eye on a flock of streetwalkers near Mayakovskaya metro station Monday night was equally pessimistic.


"It's bad," he said. "Before the girls would hardly agree to go with a client for $100. Now, as far as I can tell they are happy if somebody offers 1000 rubles [$60]."


His colleague Ivan, who works as a driver for the same stable of prostitutes, said he felt sorry for the girls, who already have to suffer poverty and routine harassment by police. "It is a tough time," he said.


"I myself only started as a driver here a couple of weeks ago, because, with all this ruble devaluation, I and my wife do not have enough money anymore," said Ivan, who during the day works as a chauffeur for one of Russia's troubled banks.


Even those prostitutes servicing a higher class of clientele in the city's hotels are feeling the pinch.


"[Men] have just become more mean," said Lilya, who works at the Mezhdunarodnaya Hotel. "You see, often it is not about sex. Sometimes [men] just need somebody to talk to or to be with them while they are partying. Afterwards they would give us money. But now they tend to just walk away, leaving nothing behind," Lilya said. She added that the surge in demand for prostitutes' services that usually happens every fall failed to materialize this year. "They all go crazy in spring, because I guess it is natural," she explained. "The second wave comes in the fall, which, I think, has its roots in a certain nostalgia for the past spring and summer. Well, this fall there was no increase."


However, Katya and her colleagues on the sidewalk outside the Hotel Moskva are confident the decline in business is just a temporary phenomenon. "We will survive," Katya said cheerfully. "After all, ours is the world's most ancient profession."