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24 Jun, 2010 16:05

Russia seeks protection from Afghan drug flow

The head of the Russian drug enforcement agency has said his country wants to set up a permanent military base in Kyrgyzstan in order to stem the continuous flow of illegal drugs from Afghanistan.

Viktor Ivanov, the head of the Russian Federal Service for Drug Turnover Control, told reporters on Thursday that creating a military base near the Kyrgyz city of Osh would help to fight one of the largest heroin supply routes.

He said that Osh was a sort of a river mouth through which the illegal drugs were flooding the plains of Central Asia, and mobile units of the Russian Defense Ministry stationed in the region could effectively fight the threat.

“But these are military-political issues; I do not participate in such discussions,” Ivanov said. He immediately added that he knew that the issue had been discussed at a high level and that the Russian defense minister had previously traveled to Kyrgyzstan to deal with the issue.

The Russian official noted the positive experience of the United States in fighting cocaine traffic from Central America by establishing a network of military bases in Colombia.

Viktor Ivanov also told reporters that Russia and the United States had started working on a plan of common action against a number of Afghan drug barons. In particular, on May 23 the Russian side passed to US colleagues files on nine Afghan citizens who were supplying Russia with illegal drugs. On June 23, the US side reported that several of the people mentioned in the Russian files had been confirmed as drug traffickers.

Former White House Drug Policy spokesman Robert Weiner says Moscow and Washington need to eradicate Afghan opium to cut terrorist funding.

“The fact that the Russian people brought the national drug policy director Viktor Ivanov here, the fact that he was here is an encouraging sign of actually doing something about world drug policy together,” Weiner told RT. “Those are real, those are not fake, and if we can develop cooperation between the United States and Russia on Afghanistan drug policy and actually move toward an eradication, taking the money away from those who would harbor Al-Qaeda. That’s real. That’s going to stop the number of terrorists who are out there killing people all over the world.”