‘Historic high’: Afghan drug crime to further deteriorate after US withdrawal, says Russia

‘Historic high’: Afghan drug crime to further deteriorate after US withdrawal, says Russia
The drug production in Afghanistan is already at a “historic high,” but the situation is likely to deteriorate even more when international troops leave the country, Russia’s chief anti-narcotics official said.

“The beginning of the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Forces from Afghanistan, political instability in the country and a number of other factors make it possible to judge that the situation may drastically deteriorate in the future,” Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service, stressed.

He was speaking in Russia’s southern Volga River city of Astrakhan where the heads of the anti-drug agencies from Caspian states, including Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan were holding a meeting.

According to the Russian official, drug production in Afghanistan has now reached “a historic high.”

“This year, over 250,000 hectares are allocated for opium poppy cultivation and another 150,000 hectares for the cultivation of cannabis,” he said, adding that 4 million Afghans are involved in the illegal drugs industry in the country.

Ivanov has labeled Afghanistan “a direct threat to international peace and security” as the country has recently become “a truly planetary center for drug production.”

There are around 8 million drug addicts in Russia and over 1.5 million of them use Afghan heroin, he added.

Director of the Federal Drug Control Service of Russia Viktor Ivanov.(RIA Novosti / Evgeny Biyatov)

Ivanov also expressed his regret that the sanctions imposed on Russia by the US over the events in Ukraine have shattered anti-drug cooperation between the two states.

"The political leadership of the US has sanctioned me and banned me from entering the country, thus putting an end to the Russian-American working group on drugs, which actively operated for over five years and of which I was a co-chair from the Russian side,” he said.

Over the years, the anti-drug cooperation between Russia and the US brought good results, Ivanov stressed.

“I don’t know what was their motivation was, but it clearly wasn’t the interests of the American people, as Russia and the US conducted large-scale joint operations to prevent shipments of cocaine from South America to the US,” he said.

The turmoil in Ukraine has facilitated drug transit through this country, Ivanov said, with methadone already flowing into Russia.

“During the last eight years, so-called methadone substitute therapy has been used in Ukraine. Ninety percent of methadone purchased with state funds goes to the criminal market. The price of methadone is almost equal to the price of the Afghan heroin,” the anti-drug chief said.

“And now we see that methadone is making its way from Ukraine to Russia,” he added.

Ivanov also proposed a project that would make the Caspian Sea region free of drugs, which “offers a detailed action plan” in police co-operation and information exchange for the region’s states.

He referred to the use of surveillance drones, operative work at seaports, divers to search for and confiscate sunken drugs and a joint diplomatic effort.

The Russian anti-drug chief also stressed the need to create a Caspian network of rehabilitation centers for drug addicts as "the fewer drug addicts, the lower the demand for drugs, and the safer our regions."

During the Astrakhan meeting, the results of a joint special drug-fighting operation were summed up, which saw around 500 drug-related crimes curbed and some 1,500 criminal were brought to justice.