Along the notorious red-light district of Portland Street, signs recently have appeared advertising the services of Russian women. This growing band of mostly blonde women can be seen waiting for calls in cafes and bars in Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai. Those interviewed claim they have been forced into the vice trade through poverty. 'I am having to do this because my country has so many troubles,' said Natasha, 21, sitting in a Portland Street brothel and seemingly on drugs. 'I needed some money. My friend offered me this trip to Hong Kong and I thought it would be okay, but I never thought it would be as bad as this. I hate Hong Kong,' said the Muscovite, pointing to the run-down flat that has been partitioned into small booths. Ask Natasha who organised her trip and she becomes quiet, mumbling that her friend made arrangements. Claiming to be a student who was short of cash, Natasha said she was expected to serve up to 10 customers a night and was told she would be paid US$3,000 (HK$23,400) after her two-week, expenses-paid trip. Russian women - or women claiming to be from Russia who are usually from other former republics - can ask a higher price than Chinese girls because of the novelty value, said criminologist Dr Chiu Yiu-kong, a University of Hong Kong academic studying prostitution in the SAR. A Chinese-language magazine reported a Chinese pimp as saying importing the women was a smart business move: 'Before business was really bad because my customers went over the border. After we introduced Russian girls, business has increased again.'