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U.S. Blacklists Russian Pornography

Contractors must now prove that any Russian pornography used in fulfilling U.S. government orders was made without children.

That's the bizarre message that U.S. President Barack Obama's administration sent out this week when its Labor Department placed Russian pornography on a blacklist of products that “might have been mined, produced or manufactured by forced or indentured child labor.”

The 29-item list, published on the Labor Department's web site on Monday, "is designed to make sure that federal agencies do not buy products made with forced or indentured child labor," according to a fact sheet on the department's web site.

Countries named on the black list do not face any trade sanctions or penalties, and the listed products are not prohibited, it said.

"Instead, it [the blacklist] requires federal contractors who furnish such a product to make certifications designed to help ensure that forced or indentured child labor was not, in fact, used to make the product," the fact sheet says.

It was not clear Tuesday when and why the U.S. government might require contractors to provide pornography from Russia or any other country.

A Labor Department spokeswoman asked that questions be submitted by e-mail but had not responded by late Tuesday.

The list also includes products like cotton from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, rice from India and toys and electronics from China.

Each country's entry is accompanied by a list of articles and research materials as an explanation for why its products were blacklisted. The bibliographical list for Russia contains articles on child trafficking and commercial sex exploitation.

Children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, who had not heard of the U.S. decision, said it was clearly an effort to crack down on child porn by labeling all Russian porn as suspect.

“That's why they gave such a broad definition — so nothing will be able to go through,” Astakhov said by telephone.

He added that both Russia and the United States are “world leaders” in producing child porn.

About 5,500 web sites with child porn were shut down in the first six months of this year, largely because of alerts from Internet users, the Interior Ministry said Monday. Most of the sites were based in Russia, it said.

Child pornography cases accounted for 6 percent of the 14,000 Internet crimes registered last year, the ministry said earlier.

The production and distribution of pornographic materials containing images of minors is punishable by two to 10 years imprisonment — a penalty that Astakhov called “too small.”

“This is a highly criminal business, and people who are involved in it are not just distributing films but actively involved in molesting children,” he said.

Last week, President Dmitry Medvedev introduced amendments to the Labor Code prohibiting people convicted of child sex crimes from working with children.

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