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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

KYRGYZSTAN

I. Summary

Kyrgyzstan continues to be a significant transit point for narcotics from Afghanistan and Pakistan en route to Russia and western Europe. As other more traditional routes become closely controlled, traffickers will adapt and try new areas and means for trafficking. With the downfall of the former Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan now finds it difficult to counter the country's increasing trafficking problem. Cannabis grows wild throughout the country, and there may be as many as 40,000 hectares growing. The USG has no reports of drugs grown in Kyrgyzstan entering the US. The GOK became a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN Drug Convention and is serious about developing a counternarcotics response, with the assistance of the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP), the USG and other interested nations.

II. Status of Country

Kyrgyzstan's location makes it geographically convenient as a transit point, as opium and heroin traffickers seek new routes from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Russia and the west and hashish traffickers from Kyrgyzstan to Russia. Given the relatively limited resources of Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies, as well as the continuously disruptive society in neighboring Tajikistan, there is reason to believe that trafficking will continue.

Although cannabis is growing wild in large areas of Kyrgyzstan, there is no evidence that this is under actual "cultivation", i.e. grown from seeds on plowed land. The UNDCP representative to Kyrgyzstan, who found such cultivation in Pakistan, noted a contrast to Kyrgyzstan, where it is indeed growing wild.

GOK officials report there are many trafficking groups operating in Kyrgyzstan, all centered in Osh, which repackage Afghan opiates and smuggle them north using a variety of transportation methods. Recently, police officials have noticed an increasing trend of using individual carriers who cross the mountains with drugs in backpacks, as well as an increasing number of women (up from 3 percent to 10 percent) who exist in poverty and carry drugs to earn money. Although official estimates of users are based on limited factual information and have remained around 50,000 for a number of years, the Kyrgyz government is increasingly concerned about the possible burgeoning use of narcotics among its own citizenry. The unofficial estimates of users declaring themselves to the authorities has doubled from 1996 to 1997. New drugs are also appearing in the country. The price of opium in Kyrgyzstan has increased significantly during the past year. One theory from a senior GOK official is that it could be a result of increased processing of heroin in the central Asian or nearby areas.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

The National Drug Intelligence Unit (NDIU) continues to operate under the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) with limited resources and only 186 officers. Narcotics strategy is determined by the State Committee on Drug Control (SCDC) which was created by presidential decree to serve as the national inter-ministerial coordinating body. The Ministry of National Security has responsibility for collection of information and becomes actively involved in significant corruption and organized crime cases. Counternarcotics efforts are mandated by legislation enacted in 1997.

The MVD remains the lead agency in drug enforcement, including crop eradication, and is involved in the interdiction of cross-border smuggling. The UNDCP has provided increasing support during the year, has assigned a Permanent Representative to Bishkek and has established law enforcement projects in the city of Osh. Credits from the the Turkish government have allowed purchase of more than 100 cars and some radios for counternarcotics agents throughout the country.

Law Enforcement Efforts. The GOK created an Interpol office in 1997, but it does not appear to be fully operational, yet. There was, however, increased cooperation within neighboring countries of the NIS, (including the arrest of Nigerian traffickers), which was due solely to cooperation between law enforcement officials from Kazakhstan, Russia and Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyz law enforcement officials freely admit they are not able to keep up with changes in routes and patrol borders to control interdiction. Since the cessation of open hostility in Tajikistan, scarce border resources have moved to other areas, leaving the Kyrgyz/Tajik border more vulnerable. GOK authorities also point out that bribery of Russian border guards has been known to happen.

Corruption. Arrests of government officials involved in narcotrafficking continued to support evidence of narcotic-related corruption. For example, in February 1997, MVD officers in Osh were accused of providing information to drug carriers. In September, a Ministry of National Security (MNB) officer was arrested with 15 kilograms of opium.

Agreements and Treaties. Kyrgyzstan is party to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Kyrgyzstan agreed to the central Asian counternarcotics Protocol between the central Asian countries in 1996.

Cultivation and Production. Although Kyrgyzstan was once a key supplier of licit opium poppy for the Soviet Union, the GOK has in recent times banned the cultivation of the opium poppy. Although there are no reports of opium production, there are indications that the opium poppy is growing on a limited basis in back yard gardens. There have been no reports in the past two years of illicit opium cultivation. The UNDCP representative is currently investigating this situation and supports this conclusion.

Ephedra grows wild everywhere in Kyrgyzstan. It is used in the production of Ephedrine, a mild stimulant for medicinal purposes. Locally it is often brewed into "Ephedrone" which is used by injection. Kyrgyz authorities consider this an extremely dangerous drug.

Cannabis also grows wild in much of Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz officials estimated in 1994 that such wild growth of cannabis totaled approximately 60,000 hectares and that the product was consumed primarily in central Asia and the CIS. This year, the GOK says they eradicated 15,000 hectares.

Demand Reduction. Economic problems in Kyrgyzstan forced the GOK four years ago to reduce funds obligated to the country's five drug treatment centers in Bishkek, Osh, Karakol, Naryn, and Talas. GOK officials divide criminal gangs into two groups: (1) local organizations, which are divided generally by their ethnicity, i.e. Chechens, ethnic Kyrgyz, etc. and (2) Russian gangs, which participate in international organized crime. Specific reporting on Russian organized crime is limited.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. In 1997, the USG continued to assist Kyrgyzstan in modernizing its legal framework to combat drug smuggling and to implement international drug control treaties. There was increased cooperation with the UNDCP, as illustrated by a new program in Osh, and increased cooperation between neighboring countries, as illustrated by the Nigerian arrest. The USG provided training to law enforcement and customs officials.

The Road Ahead. The USG will encourage Kyrgyzstan to continue implementation of the 1998 UN Drug Convention and to expand drug control efforts.

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