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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

Narcotics production, trafficking and use continued to increase in Ukraine in 1998. Domestic cultivation of poppy and hemp continues to rise, as has the transit of narcotics from Africa, South America, Turkey, and Asia through Ukraine to Europe. Ukraine is party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, and has sought to follow its provisions in drafting counternarcotics legislation. Although combating narcotics trafficking and use has been a national priority for law enforcement agencies, the lack of sufficient funding continues to severely hamper government efforts. Coordination between law enforcement entities responsible for anti-narcotics work has improved but still remains a problem.

II. Status of Country

Although Ukraine is not a major drug producing country, trafficking and domestic drug use have increased. Due to its location, Ukraine is becoming more of a significant corridor for transit of narcotic drugs, primarily heroin and hashish originating in Uganda, Nigeria, Colombia, Turkey, as well as parts of Southern and Central Asia. Numerous ports on the Black Sea and its porous borders, coupled with poorly funded and under-equipped Customs and Border services, make Ukraine increasingly attractive to trafficking organizations. While drug usage levels and trafficking activity continue on upward trends, overall drug seizures appear to have leveled off. According to preliminary 1998 statistics, approximately 35,200 criminal cases involving narcotics were brought to court a small increase over last year's figures. Additionally, 22,463 persons were fined administratively for minor drug-related violations. About 16, 000 individuals are currently in confinement for drug-related offenses. Over 80 percent of crimes committed by drug addicts were committed by unemployed persons under the age of 30 years old. The number of unregistered drug abusers is estimated to be two to three times higher than the 65,000 officially registered addicts. Opium poppy straw extract continues to be the main drug of choice. Marijuana is growing in popularity among young people and use of synthetic drugs is appearing with increasing frequency. Hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin are too expensive for the average Ukrainian citizen, so their levels of abuse are still not significant.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1998

Policy Initiatives In February 1995, the Ukrainian Parliament passed a package of drug control laws that were drafted with the assistance of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The laws are generally well drafted, comprehensive, and in line with the 1988 UN convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Ukrainian law enforcement officials praise the drug control legislation as being an effective tool for drug enforcement. Under this legislation, the counternarcotics enforcement responsibility is given to the Ministry of Interior (MVD), the State Security Service (SBU), the State Customs Service and the Border Guards. The Drug Enforcement Department (DED), an independent department within the MVD, reports directly to the Minister of Interior. Although understaffed, the DED has achieved some successes in fighting drug trafficking by eliminating a number of international drug trafficking channels.

In 1998, a national anti-drug plan, which included the creation of an inter- agency drug data bank, had to be shelved due to lack of funds. Nevertheless, the MVD has made the anti-drug effort a top law enforcement priority. Because of the increasing use of Ukrainian seaports in the transit of drugs to the West, the government tasked the Security Services (SBU) with focusing on preventing the shipment of drugs by sea. The authorities have also stepped up counternarcotics efforts at airports.

Accomplishments. Ukraine's efforts to implement its anti-narcotics plan have been greatly hindered by underfunding. Despite this, during the first eleven months of 1998, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies were successful in seizing over 28 tons of narcotic drugs. This included domestic seizures of 23.70 tons of opium straw, 6.1 tons of hashish, 4.3 tons of marijuana, 250 kilograms of cocaine paste, 124 kilograms of opiates, 22.50 kilograms of amphetamines, 3.0 kilograms of heroin. The Drug Enforcement Department of the Ministry of Interior was also successful in uncovering seven clandestine laboratories, several of which were involved in making synthetic drugs, including amphetamines. The government has also destroyed poppy fields using pesticides as well as slash and burn tactics, and has destroyed approximately 1,300 square kilometers of opium poppy fields annually. These operations have not had a significant impact on overall production. Local consumption, rather than export, absorbs most of what is grown. The police also broke up more than 770 criminals groups (most of which number only a handful of people) involved in narcotics.

Law Enforcement. Ukrainian drug enforcement units remain relatively inexperienced, understaffed, and severely under funded. For example, the MVD has approximately four times fewer officers assigned to drug units than are needed to operate effectively. Budget cuts may also force further staff reductions and limit operations. Although coordination between law enforcement agencies (primarily the MVD, SBU, Customs and the Border Guards) responsible for counternarcotics activities has improved, conflicts of investigative jurisdiction as well as the degree of cooperation continue to hamper interagency effectiveness. The establishment of an interagency drug enforcement database would improve interagency cooperation.

Corruption. While corruption is rarely linked with narcotics, it is a major problem that hinders investment and broader economic reform. Corruption also diminishes the effectiveness of the Ukrainian government efforts to battle organized crime, a major player in the narcotics business. A 1995 law on corruption has resulted in only a few low-level prosecutions. In an effort to come to grips with this problem, in April 1998 the President approved a seven-year plan to combat corruption that is in the initial stages of implementation

Agreement and Treaties. Ukraine is a party to the 1988 UN convention and has also signed counternarcotics agreements with the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP). It is also a party to the agreement of the police forces of the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States that provides for coordination of operational drug control activities. Bilateral anti-narcotics agreements have been signed with the security services of Belarus and Russia. Intergovernmental agreements providing for joint enforcement efforts against illicit drug trafficking were also signed with the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

Cultivation and Production. Opium poppy is predominantly grown in western, southwestern and northern Ukraine, while hemp cultivation is centered in the eastern

and southern parts of the country. Officials estimate about 3,000 hectares of land are dedicated to illegal poppy cultivation, and wild hemp occupies up to 100,000 hectares. Small quantities of poppies are grown legally for the food industry by state farms, and those crops are closely controlled and guarded. In late 1997, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal that must be confirmed by Parliament, which would allow these specially licensed farms to increase poppy production. Amphetamines are produced by local chemists in clandestine laboratories and exported to the West, although the extent of production is unknown.

Drug Flow/Transit. Drug traffic to Ukraine from the Balkans, Turkey, Central Asia, Thailand and other regions continues to increase with shipments usually destined for Western Europe. While some synthetic drugs are produced locally, they are also imported from Poland, Holland, Hungary and Germany. Ukraine's importance to drug traffickers as a transit corridor to Western and Eastern Europe is increasing, as evidenced by the following seizures in late 1997 and 1998 in port areas on the Black Sea (6.1 tons of hashish originating in Uganda, 625 kilograms of cocaine originating in Colombia, and 250 kilograms of cocaine paste originating from Ecuador).

Domestic Programs. Because the majority of drug abusers are under 30, Ukraine authorities have attempted to reach that group through education efforts in schools. The Ministry of Health, working with the MVD, is moving ahead with an anti-drug education program training teachers, health care workers, and police to serve as counselors. A U.S. based non-governmental organization has been operating an anti-drug information center in Kiev since 1996. A half dozen rehabilitation centers throughout Ukraine are operated by various religious institutions.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. U.S. objectives are to assist Ukrainian authorities to develop effective counternarcotics programs involving interdiction, demand reduction, and money laundering. Ukraine has signed a mutual legal assistance treaty in criminal matters with the United States, but the agreement has not yet entered into force. In 1998, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Customs Service conducted anti-drug training programs in areas such as interdiction, management training, asset forfeiture, forensics, border control, and money laundering.

The Road Ahead. The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in a rapid growth of criminal activity, including narcotics trafficking and use. The trafficking of narcotic drugs to European destinations through Ukraine is increasing as traffickers look for ways to circumvent stringent Western European customs and border controls. Although Ukraine does not have a serious drug problem by world standards, law enforcement agencies need continued assistance in Western techniques. Demand reduction and treatment for abusers requires increased attention. The USG is working with the Ukraine government to expand the range and scope of counter-narcotics training and assistance.

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