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1998 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
United States Department of State
February 26, 1999


I. Summary

A new, comprehensive law on narcotics and psychotropic substances went into effect in Russia on April 15, 1998. The number of drug related crimes grew by seven percent in the first nine months of 1998, compared to the similar period in 1997, according to statistics from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). Poppy straw and cannabis products dominate drug trafficking cases, but domestic consumption of cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and synthetics has increased. Heroin seizures increased more than three- fold in 1998, while cocaine seizures declined by 82 percent. There is insufficient information to determine how much of the money illicitly filtering through Russia's financial services system is derived from narcotics trafficking. Russia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Russia is a conduit for illicit drugs such as Asian heroin and South American cocaine, largely destined for Western European markets. It is also a minor producer of illicit amphetamines, cannabis and opium poppy, mostly supplying domestic consumption. The country's immediate neighbors add to the supply of cannabis, opium and opium derivatives in the domestic market. Law enforcement efforts have been targeted to tamp the increasing use of heroin and cocaine in recent years.

Ethnic Russian criminal groups control most narcotics trafficking and distribution in the country, with the active participation of members of ethnic groups from around the New Independent States (NIS) and other countries. Control over various types of drugs is divided among different groups who have established proprietary niches, often to avoid disputes. In general, Afghans, Tajiks and other Central Asians traffic in heroin, opium and opium derivatives in European Russia and Western Siberia; Vietnamese and Chinese traffic drugs through Eastern Siberia. Ukrainians focus on cannabis; Nigerians and other Africans predominate in cocaine; and Azerbaijanis in synthetic drugs.

Privatization of chemical laboratories has provided the opportunity for some or part of such facilities to be used for illicit purposes. For example, in April 1998 two persons were convicted in a Moscow court for producing illicit drugs two years earlier in a part of a laboratory rented from the Russian Chemical Technical University.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1998

Policy Initiatives: Russia has focused its counternarcotics efforts on law enforcement. The new drug law and the criminal code, which went into effect in 1997, have substantially enhanced police powers to act against illicit drug trafficking. A greater emphasis appears to have been placed on drugs destined for domestic consumption, particularly originating from Central and Southeast Asia.

Accomplishments: In April 1998, a new comprehensive law on narcotics and psychotropic substances went into effect. Based on the law, the purchase and possession of drugs without intent to distribute was criminalized. Russian law now provides for punishment of up to three years imprisonment for "large" quantities, defined as 0.1 gram to 500 grams of marijuana, 0.01 to 1 gram of cocaine or up to 0.005 grams of heroin. Purchase and possession of drugs with intent to distribute similar quantities is punishable by three to seven years imprisonment and confiscation of property. Regarding "specially large" quantities, greater than the amounts specified above, and involving the element of conspiracy or organization, the law provides for punishment of 7 to 15 years incarceration.

Although extradition mechanisms are lacking, Russia cooperates with other countries in bringing international traffickers to justice. In October, for example, Russian authorities deported an alleged South American trafficker to the United States for prosecution.

Law Enforcement Efforts. The number of drug related crimes grew by seven percent in the first nine months of 1998, compared to the similar period in 1997, according to statistics from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). The largest increase, approximately 100 percent, involved cases of "specially large quantities". In the first nine months of 1998 (compared to a similar period in 1997), Russian authorities seized 126.6 kilograms of heroin, up 338 percent; 9.4 kilograms of cocaine, down 82 percent; and 16,560 kilograms of marijuana, up 6 percent.

Two major operations illustrate Russia's law enforcement counternarcotics efforts. In April, the MVD in the northern city of St. Petersburg conducted a 10-day operation, "Doping 98". As a result authorities seized 5.15 kilograms of narcotics and brought up 579 criminal cases. One of Russia's largest drug seizures of the year occurred in September in the southern part of the country. Working with security forces from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, MVD narcotics control department and FSB officers seized 155 kilograms of opium, 1.6 kilograms of heroin and about 12 kilograms of hashish in three trucks originating from Tajikistan.

Minister of Internal Affairs Stepashin, appointed by President Yeltsin in May, has made counternarcotics law enforcement one of the MVD's highest priorities. The focus has been to strengthen the MVD's capabilities in this area as a federal ministry and in cooperation with local authorities. The interior minister is tasked by the president to coordinate all of the country's counternarcotics activities. Inadequate resources hamper the MVD's counternarcotics efforts.

Corruption. There have been no reported cases of narcotics-related corruption that facilitates the production, processing, or shipment of narcotics and psychotropic drugs and other controlled substances or that discourages the investigation or prosecution of such acts. A draft law on corruption is stalled in the State Duna. The office of the procurator general has become more active in the pursuit of corruption cases not related to narcotics and a number of high ranking government and military officials face prosecution.

Agreements and Treaties. Russia is party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 Single Convention and its 1972 protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. In 1995, the Russian border service concluded an agreement with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to reinforce trilateral counternarcotics cooperation on the borders with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. A customs union consisting of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus also was established in 1995. Russia is a party to the 1992 Kiev treaty on cooperation in inter-regional drug investigations.

In July 1998, the U.S. drug enforcement administration and the MVD signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on counternarcotics cooperation. A 1995 MOU between the Russian Federal Border Service and the USG includes provisions for maritime drug interdiction. The annex of the executive agreement on mutual legal assistance on criminal matters of 1996 addresses traffic in illicit drugs and psychotropic substance as well as money laundering.

The U.S. and Russia have a Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement and negotiation of a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) continued in 1998. There is no extradition treaty in force between Russia and the United States. Russia is a party to the WTO's international convention on mutual administrative assistance for the prevention, investigation, and repression of customs offenses "Nairobi convention" annex on assistance in narcotics cases. A U.S.-Russia customs mutual assistance agreement (CMAA) is in force.

Cultivation and Production. Although there are no official statistics on the extent of opium cultivation, the USG has no evidence to suggest that more than 1,000 hectares of opium are cultivated. In the first nine months of 1998, Russia eradicated eight hectares of wild and cultivated opium. Despite the 1.5 million hectares of wild cannabis, we have no evidence that 5,000 or more hectares are being harvested. In the first nine months of 1998, Russian authorities eradicated 62,000 hectares of wild cannabis and 55 hectares of cultivated cannabis. We have no evidence of how much may be being harvested.

Drug Flow/Transit. Heroin from South Asia flows through Central Asia into Southern Russia for domestic consumption or further through Ukraine and Poland into Western Europe. The MVD considers the Krasnodar region and the customs point at Bratsk major hot points. The lack of effective border controls with China and Mongolia facilitates international drug trafficking through that region. Nigerian and South American drug traffickers exploit international air links, routing cocaine through Moscow and other major Russian cities.

Demand Reduction. Drug abuse prevention and treatment remain limited. The April narcotics law provides for compulsory treatment of drug abusers who come to the attention of the authorities. The law also restricts drug abuse treatment to government institutions and facilities.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

The principal U.S. goal is to assist Russia in integrating counternarcotics efforts into international efforts against drug trafficking and to strengthen Russian institutions to address the problem domestically. The full staffing of the DEA country office, established in 1996, has facilitated cooperative efforts. DEA also has provided forensics and basic and advanced drug investigation training to representatives of the MVD, the federal security service, customs and federal border guards. This program, along with training provided by other U.S. law enforcement agencies, has reached more than 5,000 Russian law enforcement officials through courses and seminars in Russia, the U.S., and the international law enforcement academy in Budapest.

A U.S.-Russia bilateral counternarcotics assistance agreement remains stalled pending passage of tax legislation. The draft agreement provides for the receiving country to grant duty and tax exemptions for the assistance. This provision falls outside existing Russian legislation and the GOR therefore cannot commit to such an obligation. The appropriate legislation is pending before the Russian legislature.

The Road Ahead Bolstered by the passage of a new drug law, Russia has given high priority to counter narcotics efforts and can be expected to continue its excellent cooperation on drug matters with the U.S. and the international community. The U.S. will continue to provide training aimed at strengthening institutions and law enforcement efforts.

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Saturday, 27 February 1999