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In the mid-1990s, narcotics addiction and sales play a growing role in the disruption of Russian society. This trend has been promoted by an adverse economic situation, a general lack of high-level control over the use and movement of narcotic substances, and the continued laxity of border controls. Between 1993 and 1995, the annual amount of seized drugs increased from thirty-five to ninety tons; experts believe that Russia has the largest per capita drug market of all the former Soviet republics.

According to the Russian government's Center for the Study of Drug Addiction, in early 1996 at least 500,000 Russians were dependent on illegal drugs. With use increasing at an estimated rate of 50 percent per year, the total number of users was estimated at 2 million in 1995. Drug traffickers, supplied mainly with opium from Central Asia and heroin from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, have targeted Russia as a market and as a conduit to Western markets. In the early 1990s, cocaine use appeared among affluent young Russians, and beginning in 1993 the interception of cocaine shipments in St. Petersburg indicated that South American producers had entered the Russian market. Criminal organizations are believed to control most trafficking and distribution in Russia. Some local Russian distributors are closely linked with criminal groups in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Ukraine. Russian soldiers and officers in Afghanistan and later in Central Asia became active in smuggling the narcotics easily available in those countries into Russia. Reportedly, members of the Russian 201st Motorized Infantry Division, stationed in Tajikistan, have established a profitable enterprise that is tacitly accepted by Russian and Tajikistani authorities. The Moscow State Institute of International Relations has reported the existence of a regular smuggling route going fromTajikistan to Russia's Black Sea port of Rostov-na-Donu via Turkmenistan, and from there to Western Europe. One explanation of the Russian attack on Chechnya, published in the independent newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta , was that it was a reprisal against Chechen president Dzhokar Dudayev for demanding more protection money for narcotics shipments through Chechnya to Rostov-na-Donu.

Narcotics production in Russia also is rising. In 1993 the government seized 215 laboratories, many of them small-scale amphetamine producers who used stolen government equipment. Newly privatized chemical laboratories are more difficult to monitor than were Soviet-era state facilities. Opium poppies and marijuana are grown in southern Russia, although cultivation is illegal. In 1995 an MVD official estimated that about 1 million hectares of wild cannabis was growing and easily available in Siberia; opium cultivation also is believed to be increasing.

The laundering of drug money is encouraged by Russia's lax monetary regulations and controls. Some local banks are controlled by criminal groups that use them to launder profits from illegal activities, including drug sales. According to one 1995 estimate, as many as 25 percent of Moscow's commercial banks are part of this operation. Legislation against money laundering was proposed but had not been passed as of mid-1996.

In 1994 the Yeltsin administration formed an interministerial counternarcotics committee, involving twenty-four agencies, to coordinate drug policy. In 1995 a three-year antidrug program was approved to support interdiction and drug treatment facilities. The program also was intended to criminalize drug use, extend sentences for drug trafficking, and establish a pharmaceuticals-monitoring process. In 1995 the full-time staff of the anti-drug-trafficking department of the MVD increased from about 3,500 to 4,000. The State Customs Committee increased its drug control staff by 350 and added fifty field offices, and the Federal Border Service created an antidrug force. The Moscow City Council instituted drug education programs in some city schools in 1993, and several private organizations have sponsored national programs to curb demand. The government has not aggressively addressed the rehabilitation of drug addicts or the reduction of demand, however; in 1995 an estimated 90 percent of Russia's drug addicts went untreated (see Health Conditions, ch. 5).

The Russian government has signed a number of international conventions on narcotics (responsibility for some of which it inherited from the Soviet Union), including the 1988 United Nations Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Russia will not be in full compliance with the convention, however, until it has stricter controls on production and distribution and tougher criminal penalties for possession of drugs. The United States government has offered Russia advice and training courses on various aspects of narcotics control. A mutual legal-assistance agreement with the United States went into effect in early 1996, and the Federal Border Service has memorandums of understanding on narcotics cooperation with the United States Coast Guard and with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The Criminal Justice System

The Federal Security Service (FSB) has a staff of several thousand responsible for investigating crimes of national and international scope such as terrorism, smuggling, treason, violations of secrecy laws, and large-scale economic crime and corruption--an area of jurisdiction similar to that of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Several other state organizations also have designated criminal investigatory responsibilities.

Data as of July 1996

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Russia Table of Contents