The President inspected the latest equipment the Federal Drug Control Service uses in its work, saw demonstrations of mobile scanners and fingerprint kits, a kit for on-the-spot analysis of the presence of narcotic substances in a person’s body, and heard about the latest methods used in quantitative and qualitative analysis of drug-containing substances.
Mr Medvedev addressed the issue of drug use among Russia’s youth at a State Council Presidium meeting in Irkutsk on April 18, 2011.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: At the State Council Presidium meeting we discussed the measures to counter the use of drugs among young people. Our discussions focused primarily on what we can do in the youth environment itself, in our schools, universities, and various medical education facilities. We gave less attention at that meeting to the work of the Federal Drug Control Service, but this does not all mean that it plays a secondary part in our efforts to fight drug use.
“The FDCS’ task is to track and suppress the trafficking routes and bring to justice the people involved in these crimes.”
The FDCS’ task is to track and suppress the trafficking routes and bring to justice the people involved in these crimes. This is why I have come here, following immediately on the State Council Presidium meeting, to one of the offices involved in this work, the FDCS’ Moscow office. Here, we have just had the chance to visit the forensic laboratory and see the kinds of possibilities that exist today for combating the colossal drugs threat that has spread across our country and other countries too.
It seems to me that they have everything they need here and are well-equipped on the whole, but this does not mean we do not need to keep giving this work our utmost attention. I spoke with the service’s director just before, and I think that we must not be shy of putting money into buying new equipment, first of all, because the drug traffickers are constantly coming up with new methods and means of getting drugs into our country, and the drugs production laboratories people set up within our country are also becoming more modern all the time, unfortunately, and we must not forget this.
Second, new methods and equipment that can be used to tackle these problems are also emerging, and so the question of ensuring the service gets the new equipment it needs is one of the priorities if we are to successfully address the real problem of fighting drug use.
Mr Ivanov, let’s hear from you first, and then we will listen to the regions linked up with the office here in Moscow via video conference.
Director of the Federal Drug Control Service Viktor Ivanov: Mr President, I want to thank you for finding the time to visit this office of ours, the forensic office. Its work goes for the most part unnoticed, unseen by the general public.
Dmitry Medvedev: That is a good thing really, because this is the kind of work that cannot be carried out in the public gaze.
Viktor Ivanov: But this invisible front is just as essential a part of our operations and investigation work as the work of our investigators.
“We understand that the overall volume of various substances, both intended for the Russian Federation and in transit to other countries, is sadly very large and is growing. We will still have to fight this, together with our partners.”
I want to thank you too for the attention you have given to this issue and the decisions you have taken to make the state’s policing functions more effective. Key decisions in this area include the decisions taken by the Security Council, which you head, the instructions you gave last June at the forum Drug Production in Afghanistan: A Challenge for the International Community, and the state anti-drugs policy that you approved, which, as you noted, along with reducing demand for drugs, emphasises the need to step up efforts to cut off the supply of drugs. This is where the policing functions come in.
I want to say a few words about the implementation of your instructions, and sum up some of the results of the law enforcement agencies’ work in this area, as the FDCS acts as coordinator for all of the law enforcement agencies involved in the fight against drugs. They include the Federal Security Service, Interior Ministry, and the customs bodies. I want to emphasise that this work is well organised and coordinated. We have approved a series of inter-ministerial regulations to ensure more effective information exchange, in particular, by putting in place remote access to data bases, so that we do not have to send written requests, but can conduct our work using modern telecommunications. We have concentrated our efforts primarily on cutting off the big wholesale supply routes. Our joint efforts have resulted in more than 9,000 such deliveries being cut off, and the FDCS accounts for 89 percent of this total. Given that we are the coordinators, we…
Dmitry Medvedev: You get the lion’s share.
Viktor Ivanov: Yes, over the last year, more than 220,000 crimes were stopped, of which around 150,000 were heavy and especially grave crimes. We liquidated 45 criminal associations and more than 1,000 criminal groups operating throughout the country.
In the Republic of Bashkortostan, for example, a criminal gang was eliminated and criminal proceedings were initiated against 95 people. This was a well-organised, hierarchical structure comprising five criminal groups engaged in drug peddling operations disguised as ordinary business activities, including car repair shops, even a football club in Bashkortostan, and a meat processing plant. But the principal income was from the drugs trade.
Dmitry Medvedev: Meaning that this entire empire was hidden behind a completely legal and decent business, one where the main income was nonetheless from drugs?
Viktor Ivanov: Yes. Moreover, this [business front] allowed them to legitimise that money.
Dmitry Medvedev: To legitimise that money, which is to say, to launder it.
Viktor Ivanov: Which is very dangerous.
We have been trying to coordinate our work to destroy the drug production and trade infrastructure. As a result of that activity we have closed up 6,554 drug houses, 4,500 clandestine production laboratories and 43 professionally equipped underground laboratories.
I want to state that one lab, discovered in Leningrad Region, was producing up to 30 kilograms of amphetamine a week. Over half a ton of (synthetic) amphetamine was seized during the search. This is more than the total seized by law enforcement agencies last year. Weapons were found, and 15 people were prosecuted.
Overall 46 tons of drugs were withdrawn from illegal [drug] trade, including 33 tons — by the Federal Drug Control Service.
We have also been focusing on destroying the infrastructure for crop-based drug cultivation and production in Russia. Notably, 28,000 hectares of wild-growing hemp have been destroyed, preventing tens of tons of marijuana from entering into the illegal trade. Criminal proceedings have also been initiated…
Dmitry Medvedev: Which regions are mostly involved?
Viktor Ivanov: Naturally, this involves mostly warm regions such as Tuva, Buryatia, the Primorye Territory, Amur Region, Krasnodar and Stavropol territories. These kinds of regions.
“The flow of drugs remains extremely high, and this means that you must work at your best, because you are the “red line”, holding back the crime that takes place, holding back the narcotisation of our youth.”
In total 112,000 people have been prosecuted in the past year. Sadly, around 80% of these were young people.
I would also like to note the sharp growth in drug crimes conducted over the Internet, which has fundamentally affected our work to prevent drug crime. In the first quarter of this year alone we brought 426 criminal cases for this type of crime, prosecuted 134 criminals and blocked 22 websites. There are a number of issues to resolve here. Up to 60% of such sites fall under foreign jurisdiction, while Russian sites disguise under the advertising of various consumer goods; bath salts, slimming aids, rodent control products and so forth.
Dmitry Medvedev: That is to say that it is sometimes difficult to determine that the activities of a website are aimed at promoting drugs.
Viktor Ivanov: Yes, that is correct.
Dmitry Medvedev: So they are advertising other goods there as well.
Viktor Ivanov: That is the case. That is why we carry out so-called ‘controlled buys’, engage in operational work, and this allows us to shut down some of such sites.
I think it would be appropriate to consider establishing Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) responsibility. A number of countries have already introduced such responsibility in various forms; in general, we think the ISPs could keep an eye on the products offered on their websites.
Moreover, I would like to mention that drug corporations synthesise from 20 to 30 different new drugs, which, because they are new, are not controlled substances and quickly find their way to the domestic market. This is why it is crucial that they are quickly and effectively identified, and a lot here depends on the equipment and instrumentation level of criminal expertise units. We would then be able to respond swiftly and protect our young people, before the trade in such a substance has really begun.
These matters are, in our opinion, a high priority. Thank you for familiarising yourself with our equipment. I want to say that we use home-grown technologies too, one of which you have seen.
Dmitry Medvedev: It was quite good.
Viktor Ivanov: It has already been certified. We believe that a special meeting should be held to draft orders for creating such an innovative drug analysis industry, with the help from Russian scientists, specialists, small businesses and higher education institutions. In fact, the technology you saw was created by a small business enterprise and a department at the Moscow Medical Academy [Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University].
Let me give just a couple of examples of typical police work. Here we have a map with red flags marking the operations carried out in Afghanistan, which I will tell you about, and blue flags marking the most recent operations, which actually took place last week. Here we have Kaliningrad, St Petersburg, Moscow Region, Krasnoyarsk and Yekaterinburg. Today they are joining this meeting via video conferencing.
“As soon as a new narcotic appears, which might be yet unknown to the wider public, or not used in some countries, you must be on the alert and must immediately include it in the appropriate Government resolution, especially since you have this right now.”
In Kaliningrad we carried out an operation to dismantle a criminal group run by an Uzbek national (who is also a Russian citizen) and a Gypsy woman, who jointly operated an effective heroin drop supply channel. Hiding places were discovered in the house where the Uzbek national lived, including a secret room from which two guns and silencers were seized, along with ten kilograms of heroin and a significant quantity of hashish.
We carried out an operation in Krasnoyarsk disrupting a drug-trafficking route for hashish disguised as radish: 16 sacks were tied in a special way with a double knot to make sure that the drug delivery is not mixed up and lost in the overall supply. Heroin was also seized there; it was wrapped into pellets so that, after arrival in Russia, it could be carried in other dealers’ stomachs and distributed across the Russian Federation. These are recent operations.
I will mention a few major operations from last year: 400 kilograms of hashish seized in St Petersburg, 70 kilograms of heroin in Ulyanovsk, 30 kilograms of heroin in Yekaterinburg, 120 kilograms of hashish in Daghestan, 200 kilograms of hashish in Astrakhan, half a ton of amphetamine in Leningrad Region as already mentioned, 200 kilograms of hashish in Kemerovo, 20 kilograms of heroin in Novosibirsk, 4 tons of marijuana in Vladivostok, and I could keep on giving you the numbers and places… This is a clear evidence of the extent this problem has taken.
On a separate note, I would like to say that a working group of the Russian-American Presidential Commission (which you helped to establish, Mr President) has begun its regular operations to cut off heroin supply routes from Afghanistan. You talked about this at your meeting with President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai on January 21. One of these operations has met with some acclaim: in Nangarhar Province four drug-making laboratories were shut down and around a ton of drugs (heroin) was seized.
From December until March of this year we created a joint operations group with the USA, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and carried out four operations to seize drugs and uncover laboratories that were targeting supplies to Russia. Almost 1.5 tons of heroin, 4.5 tons of morphine and 300 kilograms of opium was seized. This had a real impact on the supply of heroin to Russia; the supply did not increase last year, and in fact fell slightly.
Dmitry Medvedev: This is very good news, although I understand that the overall volume of various substances, both intended for the Russian Federation and in transit to other countries, is sadly very large and is growing. We will still have to fight this, together with our partners.
You have raised an issue that I would like to ask you about; do you consider the current level of cooperation with the USA, the Afghan authorities and others to be adequate? A short time ago there was the impression that this work was not developing that actively. Have things now improved?
“Your opponents are smart, sly and well-equipped. You must also be well prepared.”
Viktor Ivanov: Yes, absolutely. As regards operational procedures, in my opinion, we have made considerable progress in brisking up the work here, thanks to the efforts and political commitment of both presidents. Of course, we would like and propose that – and the Council of CSTO heads of state already addressed the UN Security Council on this issue – to qualify narcotics production and trafficking in and from Afghanistan as a threat to world peace and security.
Unfortunately, there are over 1,000 operating laboratories in Afghanistan. This is a very large number. I would also like to state that this number did not fall in 2010, in fact it grew.
Dmitry Medvedev: Is that only for Afghan drug cartels?
Viktor Ivanov: Yes, that is only for Afghan drug cartels.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. We have two FDCS Departments on video link, the Southern Federal District and Sverdlovsk Region.
(As part of the video conference head of the State Anti-Drug Committee Department for the Southern Federal District Vyacheslav Ovechkin and head of the FDCS Department for Sverdlovsk Region Sergei Gaponov gave reports to the President.)
Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, I would now like to return to the key problem that we have been discussing over the last few days.
It is clear that much positive progress has recently been made. The Federal [Drug Control] Service did much of this itself and in cooperation with other Russian agencies. Nonetheless, the flow of drugs remains extremely high. This means that you must work at your best, because you are the “red line”, holding back the crime that takes place, holding back the narcotisation of our youth and Russian citizens in general. This is why we need to work as effectively as possible, within the law, having and using the most modern legal framework.
I have already said that as soon as a new alkaloid appears, as soon as a new narcotic appears, which might be yet unknown to the wider public, or not used in some countries, you must be on the alert and must immediately include it in the appropriate Government resolution, especially since you have this right now. You must meet the situation head-on, meaning the technical and computer equipment level, because your opponents are smart, sly and well-equipped. The sort of money that the drug business brings in is well known, meaning they have more than enough resources. You must also be well prepared.
Mr Ivanov, please submit your proposals for maybe some additional support for this section of the FDCS.
Thank you everyone.