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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

Ukraine witnessed a continued increase in narcotics trafficking and use in 1997. Domestic illicit cultivation of poppy and hemp has been on the upswing in recent years, as has the transit of narcotics from Asia and Turkey through Ukraine to Europe. Ukraine is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, and has sought to follow the provisions of the Convention in drafting counternarcotics legislation. However, lack of sufficient funding continues to severely hamper Ukrainian efforts to combat narcotics trade and use. The lack of coordination between law enforcement entities responsible for anti-narcotics work also remains a problem.

II. Status of Country

While Ukraine is not a world leader in the cultivation, trafficking, use of narcotics and laundering of profits from their sale, the country's problems with drugs have increased greatly in recent years. While final statistics are not yet available, this trend appears to have continued in 1997, with an increase in domestic drugs use and trafficking reported. Overall drug seizure figures seem to have levelled off. According to preliminary estimates, in 1997 approximately 35,000 criminal cases involving narcotics were brought to court, about the same number as last year (although the number should rise when final statistics are published in January 1998). An additional 26,000 individuals, mostly rural residents who illegally planted poppies, were fined.

Officials expect about 65,000 individuals to have registered as drug abusers by the end of 1997, up from only 8,000 in 1992. The number of unregistered abusers is estimated to be close to 500,000. Opium poppy straw continues to be the addict's main drug of choice, although marijuana is also prevalent and growing in popularity among young people. Synthetic drugs are also appearing with increasing frequency. Hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin are too expensive for the average Ukrainian, so their levels of abuse are still not significant. Ukrainian efforts to combat narcotics continue to be plagued by low pay among law enforcement personnel, and by the lack of resources available for the fight against drugs.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives. While in recent years Ukraine has passed several laws designed to bring the country into line with the 1988 UN Drug Convention, Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) sources say no new drug legislation was introduced in 1997. In 1994, the National Anti-Narcotics Coordinating Council established in the Cabinet of Ministers to coordinate the efforts of government and public organizations, approved a 1994-97 anti-drug plan. However, many of the steps, including the creation of an interagency drug data bank, which were supposed to have been completed this year, had to be shelved due to lack of funds. A counternarcotics plank was incorporated into Ukraine's 1996-2000 anti-crime program. In October of 1997, the Prime Minister approved an initiative to establish MVD drug squads at all administrative levels. These squads could begin operating early in 1998, providing the government can find the funds.

While statistics are not yet available for 1997, law enforcement sources report that in 1996 more than 700 narcotics-related criminal cases involved synthetic drugs. This represents a 100-fold increase in the number of such cases since 1994. The MVD has ordered its officers to pay particular attention to the interdiction of these types of drugs. Because of the increasing use of Ukrainian ports in the transit of drugs to the West, in 1997, the government also tasked the Security Services (SBU) with focusing on preventing the shipment of drugs by sea. In 1997, Ukrainian authorities also approved a plan to beef up counternarcotics efforts in the nation's airports.

Accomplishments. As mentioned above, Ukraine's efforts to implement its anti-narcotics plan have been greatly hindered by lack of funding for police and social organizations. Despite this, the Ministry of Health has forged ahead with an anti-drug educational program, conducting training of teachers, health care workers and police to serve as counselors. One needle exchange program sponsored by the Ukrainian AIDS Prevention Committee was recently nipped in the bud when the MVD threatened to arrest every drug user who participated.

During 1997, The MVD, Customs, and border guards conducted several successful joint operations with their Russian, Belarusian and Moldovan colleagues. Three operations on the Belarusian and Russian borders netted 350 kilograms of narcotics, and police seized 52 kilograms of narcotics during a recent four-day joint operation with the Moldovans.

Law Enforcement Efforts. According to preliminary estimates, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies seized more than 30 tons of narcotics in the first 10 months of 1997. US sources expect the total to approach 40 tons by the end of the year, roughly the same as last year, but almost double the amount seized in 1995. The police also apprehended more than 5,500 drug dealers, and broke up more than 700 criminal groups (most of which number only a handful of people) involved in narcotics. The latter figure is down from 1996.

Ukrainian drug enforcement units remain relatively inexperienced, understaffed, and severely underfunded. For example, the MVD has approximately 1,050 officers assigned to drug units throughout Ukraine, but estimates it needs about four times this number to operate effectively. Budget cuts may also force further staff reductions. The MVD's anti-drug sub-unit headquarters in Kiev already saw its staff reduced from 25 in 1996 to 20 this year. In addition, lack of coordination between law enforcement agencies (primarily the MVD, SBU, Customs and the border guards) responsible for counternarcotics activities continues to put a damper on efforts.

Corruption. Ukrainian politicians and private citizens consistently tell us that corruption remains a major problem, and hinders investment and broader economic reform. While corruption is rarely linked with narcotics, it diminishes the effectiveness of Ukrainian government efforts to battle organized crime, a major player in the narcotics business. The Parliament passed a Law on Corruption in 1995 which was intended to clean up the Ukrainian government. However, while a number of officials have been implicated, few have been prosecuted. Even fewer of the cases have involved anyone but minor government functionaries. In February 1997, the government launched a new anti-corruption campaign, called "Clean Hands," to address the problem. However, critics charge the government has not implemented the majority of measures called for by the program.

Agreements and Treaties. Ukraine is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention and has also signed counternarcotics agreements with the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP). The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of Ukraine. In April 1996, the Ukrainian government signed a bilateral anti-narcotics agreement with the UK. In 1997, Ukraine signed an anti-crime and narcotics pact with the Czech Republic, and the MVD also signed an agreement with its Belarusian counterpart to cooperate in border regions. Ukraine has agreements to station anti-narcotics law enforcement personnel in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Russia.

Cultivation and Production. A substantial percentage of amphetamines seized under a Scandinavian signature analysis program originated in Ukraine. In 1997, authorities discovered a laboratory at the Donetsk Institute of Chemistry producing ecstasy for export to Germany. The police also arrested seven individuals planning to produce and export over 100 kilograms of synthetic drugs per year to the UK.

Drug Flow/Transit. Ukraine continues to see drug traffic from Turkey, Thailand, Central Asia, the Balkans and other regions. Shipments are usually destined for western Europe, and arrive primarily by road, rail or sea. While some are produced locally, synthetic drugs are also imported from Poland, The Netherlands, Hungary, and Germany. Both cocaine and heroin are also smuggled into Ukraine through the use of mails. Russian officials believe Ukraine is the main source of narcotics destined for St. Petersburg. This primarily consists of poppy straw, grown in Ukraine and shipped across the border by train or automobile.

Ukraine's importance to drug traffickers could be increasing: In October, authorities in Pakistan discovered a shipment of 2.5 tons of hashish going to Odessa, and addressed to a fictitious Kiev address. Much of the shipment was destined for France, Norway, and ultimately the United States. Additionally, in early November, Customs officials in the Crimean Port of Sevastopol discovered 624 kilograms of cocaine, destined for Belgium, on a ship coming from Colombia. This is by far the largest seizure of its kind to date.

According to MVD sources, 559 foreigners are being held in Ukrainian prisons on drug-related charges. Most of these individuals are from the NIS, but a significant number are citizens of African (particularly from Nigeria) and south Asian countries. The police remain worried by the activity of Nigerian traffickers. While previously Nigerians focused on Kiev, the MVD reports that they have recently begun operating in other cities as well.

Demand Reduction. Since most Ukrainian drug abusers are under the age of 30, Ukrainian officials are looking for ways to target education efforts in schools. In 1996, a US-based NGO opened a drug information center in Kiev. In addition, religious organizations have opened another half-dozen rehabilitation centers throughout Ukraine.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. US objectives are to assist Ukrainian authorities to develop effective counternarcotics programs both in interdiction (particularly of drugs transiting the country) and demand reduction, as well as to prevent Ukraine from becoming a money laundering center. Ukraine does not presently have bilateral agreements with the US Drug Enforcement Administration or the US Customs Service; however, DEA and USCS have run a number of training programs in such areas as interdiction, management training, asset forfeiture, forensics, border control and money laundering.

The Road Ahead. Ukraine does not yet have a serious drug problem by world standards. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union has resulted in the rapid growth of criminal activity, including narcotics trafficking and use. Demand reduction and treatment for drug abusers continues to be an area that needs attention. Law enforcement agencies need continued assistance in western techniques. Both the United States and Ukraine seek to expand the range and scope of training and assistance provided by the US.


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