1998 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
United States Department of State
February 26, 1999
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
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
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
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
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.