TASHKENT, November 14 (RIA Novosti) – A court in Uzbekistan has jailed six people on charges of organizing a major human trafficking channel to Russia, local media reported Thursday.

According to investigators, a man identified as Musulman Tursunov and five accomplices tricked some 260 residents in south Uzbekistan into going to Russia, where they were forced to do unpaid work.

The group was sentenced to prison terms ranging from four to eight-and-a-half years.

According to independent Russian experts, more than 7 million Uzbek citizens currently work in Russia. Many of those who leave the Central Asian country are abused and forced to work by their employers.

Last week, an Uzbek court sentenced three people to prison terms of up to ten years for sending 40 Uzbeks to Russia, where they were forced to search for empty bottles at trash dumps.

Earlier this year, the US annual Global Trafficking in Persons report downgraded Uzbekistan and Russia to the worst category, which is reserved for governments that do not comply with minimal requirements in terms of human trafficking and forced labor.