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U.S. Department of State
1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1998

United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Europe and Central Asia


I. Summary

Its economic, political and geographic situation gives Belarus significant potential to become a major drug transit and production site. Belarus' location between Russia and the West, its good rail and road transportation and a Customs Union with Russia that eliminated internal borders between the two countries add to Belarus' viability as a narcotics transit corridor. Piecemeal and, in some cases, failed efforts to move to a market economy have dislocated many workers, including some who are attempting to get rich by illegal means. The Belarussian government claims to lack the financial resources to combat drug trafficking as well. The claim is somewhat dubious, however, given the extremely large police force--120,000 for a population of 10.7 million.

Belarus also faces many of the organized crime problems that plague other countries of the former Soviet Union, albeit without the high profile evident in some neighboring countries (for example, fewer gangland-style slayings). The lack of Belarussian laws on organized crime could lead syndicates to use Belarus for not only drug production and trafficking, but also for other drug-related crimes such as money laundering.

II. Status of Country

According to data from the Government of Belarus (GOB), the number of persons admitting to non-medical consumption of narcotics is 3,386. It is unclear if this is comparable to the number of registered drug addicts, which at the end of 1996 was 2,965. These numbers do not include addicts which are estimated to exceed these numbers by factors of 10. Belarussian authorities have estimated the true number of drug addicts to be close to 10,000. Ecstasy and other synthetic drugs are being used as well as opium poppy and oil poppy. Poppy straw extract is the primary drug of abuse. Cannabis products and dangerous drugs such as ephedrine and benzodiazepines are also used. Recently, reports surfaced of PCP (phencyclidine) available for local use.

The GOB says that 40 percent of the drug addicts reside in the Gomel region that includes Svetlogorsk, which since the summer of 1997 has experienced an outbreak of the HIV virus of epidemic proportions.

The GOB also reports that during the first six months of 1997 (the period for which statistics are available) there were 1,200 narcotics-related crimes, a 34.7 percent increase from the same period in 1996. A total of 772,276 kilograms of narcotic substances were recovered in connection with these crimes. The GOB reports that in the first half of 1997, 697 people were arrested for drug crimes, an increase of 11.7 percent from the same period in 1996. Included in this group are 138 women (up from 77 in 1996) and 25 minors. The majority of those arrested (70 percent) were unemployed and under 29 years of age.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives. The Ministry of the Interior and the National Security Service are the lead drug enforcement agencies in Belarus. Other agencies involved include the Customs Service. Within the Ministry of Interior, the Criminal Investigatikon Service is the primary entity dealing with illicit drug trafficking throughout the country targetting organized crime and collecting drug trafficking information. The Ministry of Interior also controls the Border Guards Directorate. The National Security Service (formerly the KGB) is involved in all cases involving contraband, which necessarily includes drugs. The Customs Service is responsible for interdicting drugs at the borders, but it must transfer cases to the Ministry of Interior wihtin 10 days of a seizure. The Ministry of Health is in charge of nationwide drug treatment.

Cultivation and Production. In the first half of 1997, 2,481 square meters of narcoplants were destroyed, according to official Belarussian statistics. That compares with 1,465 square meters for the same period in 1996, a 69 percent increase (a corrected figure from the 1996 INCSR). Included in the cultivation destroyed were: 2,160 square meters of poppy, 246 square meters of cannabis, and 75 square meters of wild cannabis.

Drug Flow/Transit. Belarus is growing in importance as a transit country. Good rail and road connections running East to West and North to South are used to transport narcotics from Ukraine, Central Asia, the Caucasus, Russia, the Baltic States, Poland and Germany. The most frequent route is from the Ukraine through Belarus to Russia. Opiates and cannabis shipments from the Central Asian Republics or from the Caucasian region are routed through Belarus to destinations in Western Europe. Opium poppy straw is moved through the region and distributed to local addicts.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Belarussian President Lukashenko has placed organized crime and drug trafficking on the national agenda, but results have been unclear. In the second half of 1997, the GOB launched a highly-publicized "crackdown" on corruption.

Demand Reduction. No national drug abuse prevention strategy exists in Belarus. The emphasis has been on treatment and social rehabilitation, and only limited efforts are devoted to preventive and educational programs. Treatment for drug addicts is generally performed in psychiatric hospitals. The emphasis on all programs is to achieve detoxification. There is little psychosocial counseling or social rehabilitation. Given the HIV epidemic, there is a new focus on clean needle distribution programs.

Agreements and Treaties. Belarus is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on psychotropic substances. The United States and Belarus concluded negotiations on a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, however, it has not been signed or ratified.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. The USG provided one training session to a three-person delegation to Washington for a drug seminar in 1997. Due to the deterioration of bilateral relations as a result of human rights abuses, the USG did not provide any other law enforcement training or assistance in 1997.

Multilateral Cooperation. In May 1993, Belarus joined the Teledrug Information System initiated by Italy in September 1992. Belarus is also a member of Interpol. In addition, Belarus has participated in regional efforts at law enforcement cooperation and has signed bilateral agreements on cooperation against organized crime and drug trafficking. Belarus signed an agreement in 1993 on drug control assistance with Italy, and has talked about similar agreements with Austria, Bulgaria, Sweden and Germany. The GOB has signed interstate treaties on assistance with Lithuania and China, and Belarus is a party to the CIS Convention on Legal Assistance.

The Road Ahead. The USG would like to improve training programs, particularly in the realm of regional training as human rights abuses decline. These training programs would be very specific in focus and need to include law enforcement agencies from neighboring countries.


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