Pubdate: Thu, 05 Sep 2002
Source: Moscow Times, The (Russia)
Page: 3
Copyright: 2002 The Moscow Times


Combined Reports President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia's 
fight against drug addiction had failed to yield results and called for 
more action to stem the rising problem.

"We have to admit honestly that the state's efforts haven't been 
effective," Putin told Cabinet members in televised remarks.

Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko said at the meeting that 72 
percent of registered drug users are under 30 and that "drug addicts are 
getting younger," Interfax reported.

There are about 497,000 drug addicts now registered in Russia, with 59,000 
of those from this year alone, she said.

However, other estimates have put the number of drug addicts in Russia at 
more than 3 million -- nearly 2.1 percent of the population. Prevention 
programs are nearly nonexistent, and other social programs for young people 
have also closed, deprived of the generous funding they received in Soviet 

Matviyenko said the amount now budgeted for combating illegal drugs and 
drug addiction -- 1.6 billion rubles ($50.7 million) for 2002-04 -- was not 

Much of Russia's drugs come via the loosely controlled borders with former 
Soviet Central Asia, but Putin said security problems should not be used as 
an excuse for failing to fight drug addiction in Russia.

"It doesn't mean we have the right to blame these objective circumstances 
in the fight against drug addiction," he said.

Putin said putting up a fence on the borders with Central Asian countries 
would be prohibitively expensive and that "you still cannot seal the 
steppe," Interfax reported.

"Drug dealers will pass where there are no checkpoints," Putin said. "They 
will simply be dragging this stuff through the steppe and that's it."

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov called for tougher penalties against drug 
dealers at the meeting, ORT television said. According to police 
statistics, every second drug dealer who is arrested is acquitted by the 
courts, he said.

Putin ordered the government to draft viable measures to crack down on drug 
abuse and report on the proposals within one month, ORT said.

Meanwhile, in Tajikistan, the main transit country in Central Asia for 
heroin from Afghanistan, authorities confirmed Wednesday that a district 
chief from the Security Ministry had been arrested for alleged drug 
trafficking after 16 kilograms of heroin was found in his car. Three other 
ministry employees have been detained for drug trafficking since last 
month, the Security Ministry press service said.
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