RUSSIA-NARCOTICS: Five Million Russians Are Drug Addicts

PNEWS odin at gate.net
Mon Jun 12 16:13:48 MDT 1995


Here is one of the big pluses ("its a good thing" - Justin) of the setbacks
to socialism in the former Soviet Union. Maybe Justin can explain how this
is a good thing. I'm sure it will go like "if they had only done things
right originally in 1917 (a la Justin's ideas) then this never would have
happened." If you blow smoke in a forest fire, will anyone notice?


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/* Written by newsdesk in igc:ips.english */
/* ---------- "RUSSIA-NARCOTICS: More Than Five Mi" ---------- */
       Copyright 1994 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
          Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

                      *** 08-Jun-95 ***

Title: RUSSIA-NARCOTICS: More Than Five Million Russians Are Drug Addicts

By Andrei Ivanov

MOSCOW, Jun 8 (IPS) - More than 25 million Russians have tried
drugs at some point in their lives and close to six million are
drug addicts, according to Russia's interior ministry and customs
committee which also reports an increase in drug-related crimes.

Official statistics show that close to four per cent of the
Russian population of 150 million people are drug addicts and that
another 13.5 per cent have taken drugs more than once.

And the concerned Moscow authorities expect that by 2000, the
number of regular drug users will double, affecting mainly young
people. Presently, almost two-thirds of drug users are under the
age of 30 in Russia.

Interior ministry and customs committee statistics also show a
dramatic increase in drug-related crimes from 10,000 in 1993, to
62,000 last year.   Drug smuggling increased by 50 per cent over the
corresponding period.

Customs officials have been monitoring the situation closely,
says Alexandr Godunko, a senior official at the Prosecutor
General's Office. He said 3,126 kilogrammes of drugs had been
seized at various points of entry into the Russian Federation
during 1994.

The Russian government has in the meanwhile adopted a special
federal programme to tackle the problem over the next two years.

The programme involves 30 federal ministries, departments and
organisations and will cost 85 billion roubles (about 15. 5
million dollars) in total of which 7,240 million roubles (about
1.3 million dollars) is to be allotted this year.

''The drug fashion among young people began to spread at the end
of the 1980s,'' says Major-General Alexandr Sergeyev, head of the
Interior Ministry's Directorate for Combatting Drug Trafficking.
''Unfortunately, we find that in certain schools up to half the
children are using drugs.''

Russia has become the world's biggest centre for trafficking in
drugs, acknowledge assessments by Russian security and
intelligence services.

They blame the almost complete collapse of border and export-
import controls following the break up of the Soviet Union in
1991, the lack of state control over private business and finance,
and the endless reorganisations within law-enforcement agencies
for the present situation.

But countries in the former Soviet Union have always been top
suppliers of opium and marijuana. Before the 1917 revolution,
Kirghizia (now Kyrgyzstan) alone accounted for 19 per cent of the
world's opium output.

Today's opium exports from the so-called ''Gold Crescent'' are
estimated at more than 200 tonnes a year. And this is despite the
fact that the ''Balkan route'' which used to be the main heroin
and raw opium channel from the Gold Crescent to western Europe, is
no longer in favour.

This is partly because of the war in the former Yugoslavia and a
crackdown by Iran's authorities on drug-dealing; but mostly
because traffickers now have another safer alternative.

The new ''northern'' route also runs through the Central Asian
region, but while a lot of the drugs still finds its way to
western Europe, now much of it remains in the former Soviet.

The Afghan-Tajik border -- despite Russian frontier-guards -- is
now the favourite gateway for smugglers. Martial law and incessant
armed feuds in both states have opened up vast opportunities for
drug barons to make their shady deals.

The border town of Khorog has become their first major trans-
shipment point in the former Soviet Union. From there, the drugs
take two routes -- both by road. Most go east and then north to
Osh in Kyrgyzstan on the border with Uzbekistan where controls are
lax while some goes north-west to the Tajik capital of Dushanbe.

Central Asia was traditionally the former USSR's raw materials
base and depended on Moscow for supplies and finance. With the
collapse of that system, opium has become a major source of
income.

>From here drug-dealers can use any kind of transport and easily
cross the virtually transparent borders between former Soviet
republics without checks.

The main flow of drugs is believed to pass through Siberia,
predominantly by rail. From Russia, the drugs are delivered to
western European countries by various methods, according to the
Russian secret services. Trafficking along this route is organised
by the same groups that operated the Balkan route. But they have
been joined by Russian criminal groups.

Until recently, the main markets for these drugs were in the
West. Now they are also flooding the Russian market where prices
are several times lower than world levels. In addition there is a
rapidly growing demand for Western drugs, like cocaine and heroin.
Moscow drug dealers can sell these at prices several times higher
than in the West because demand is so high.

When Russia's security and interior ministry officials seized a
1.5 tonne batch of cocaine in St Petersburg, two years ago, it
initially caused little alarm in terms of the domestic situation
because it was viewed as a consignment in transit.

The authorities initially believed that the availability of cheap
opium and marijuana and the high price of cocaine would create
little demand.

However now they are now so sure. A breed of ''new Russians'' --
not only from business but also from the cultural and arts circles --
have acquired taste for cocaine and many will pay prices up to
five times higher than in New York or Paris.

Since early 1994 the drug has been as easy to obtain as
marijuana, its distribution centres being night clubs,
discotheques and other fashionable social gatherings.

''The official figures do not fully reflect the real scale of the
drug problem in Russia,'' admitted a concerned Godunko, from the
Prosecutor General's Office.(END/IPS/CI-IP/AI-JP/CPG/95)


Origin: Amsterdam/RUSSIA-NARCOTICS/
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