Pubdate: Mon, 28 Jun 2004
Source: Moscow Times, The (Russia)
Copyright: 2004 The Moscow Times
Author: Greg Walters, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


The UN's top drug control official called on Russia on Friday to take 
action to stem demand for drugs, especially heroin, within its borders and 
said he is concerned about the planned removal of Russian forces from the 
Afghan-Tajik border, where they are engaged in anti-drug trafficking 

Russia has one of the highest levels of opiate abuse in the world, at 
around 2.1 percent of those aged 15 to 64, or about 2 million people, 
according to a new United Nations World Drug Report presented in Moscow on 
Friday by the official, Antonio Maria Costa.

About 1 million of those use heroin, a figure four times as high as in the 
next biggest heroin markets in Europe, Britain and Italy, the report said. 
As many as 3 million to 4 million drug users live in Russia, it said.

"This report confirms the severity of the addiction problem, especially 
addiction to heroin," Costa said.

The UN report said the use of heroin appears to be falling worldwide. Abuse 
of cocaine is growing, though more slowly than in previous years, and the 
use of cannabis is also becoming more widespread.

The report also said opium poppy production in Afghanistan is booming after 
a sharp reduction in 2001. Much of Afghanistan's heroin is trafficked 
through Central Asia and Russia to Europe.

Moscow announced plans last month to hand over control of the Tajik-Afghan 
border, which is largely manned by Russian border guards, to Tajik forces 
at Tajikistan's request. Costa said he hopes the international community 
will find a way to make sure the border remains secured.

"We obviously are rather concerned that the Russian troops are being moved 
elsewhere," he said.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, joining Costa at a news conference Friday, 
called for a more "systematic" multinational approach to fighting the 
production and trafficking of Afghan heroin. He did not give details.

Costa praised a recent Russian decision to ease penalties for drug 
possession, saying the revised law "appreciated the drug problem not as a 
law enforcement only but also as a health problem, and therefore [is] a 
very major commitment to working toward the problem from the demand side 
and not only from the supply side."

He also said that although UN figures through 2002 show heroin addiction in 
Russia rising, new Health and Social Development Ministry statistics he has 
seen show that trend reversing.

"Even in Russia in the past 12 months there has been a decline in the 
actual number of heroin addicts," he said.

But, he added: "We have to verify that. We don't have this sort of 

Health and Social Development Ministry officials were not immediately 
available for comment Friday.

Costa also met Thursday with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II and Arkady 
Volsky, head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, in 
an effort to get the church and business sector involved in anti-drug 
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