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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Let’s discuss last year’s results and the upcoming tasks for 2013.
Director of the Federal Drug Control Service Viktor Ivanov: Mr President, we think we have succeeded in keeping drug-related crime and drug addiction in check, and I would say this is our biggest overall achievement.
We have succeeded in putting in place effective international cooperation over the last year to suppress the supply channels bringing hard drugs from Afghanistan into Russia. This is especially true of our cooperation with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – two countries where we are carrying out technical and financial aid programmes.
We have exposed and liquidated major drug supply and distribution channels that were operating in Russia. One example was the conviction last year of the Mikhailov criminal group that was operating in Bashkortostan. Two hundred criminals involved in large-scale heroin supplies were caught and charged.
We also liquidated the Gulmamadov criminal group’s corridor for trafficking drugs. This group organised out relay heroin supplies from its base in the United Arab Emirates, and in February this year we succeeded in having Gulmamadov extradited from the UAE. This is the first time the UAE agreed to the extradition of a major trans-national criminal.
There are a number of other cases too, in which we liquidated supply channels bringing in hundreds of kilos of heroin. Overall, we prevented the delivery of 2.5 tons of heroin last year. In other words, these were all drugs that we managed to keep from entering Russian territory.
Working together with law enforcement agencies, we investigated around 250,000 drug trafficking cases and brought criminal charges against more than 100,000 people. We liquidated around 1,100 criminal groups and organisations and investigated 250 drug-related money laundering cases. The sums involved here are substantial, and our efforts have dealt a blow to the drug trade’s economic base.
We think too, that the introduction of prescription-only sales of medicines containing codeine has also had a positive effect on the overall situation.
The number of drug dens in Russia has dropped by almost half, and desomorphine addicts have become a rarity now. Crime is always cunning, however, and we are seeing drug users shifting to other drugs instead. Our successful operations to suppress heroin supply channels and the operations we have carried out in Afghanistan with the support of our American partners and the Afghan drug control authorities have reduced the amount of heroin arriving in Russia. As the cost of heroin has gone up and it has become harder to obtain in some regions, we have seen drug users shifting away from heroin use to synthetic drugs.
This is an area that requires particular close attention. It is a big concern for our partners in Europe and the USA too, because more than 50 new types of synthetic drugs were created in 2012 alone. In other words, a new synthetic drug is being created every single week. Our task is therefore to develop the rapid response measures we need to be able to put these drugs on the list of banned or controlled substances as quickly as possible.
As far as our international cooperation goes, I want to note our work with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, because our programmes, which address the economic and technical and equipment problems our partners face, have helped make their work a lot more effective.
I also want to report on an operation we carried out jointly with Nicaragua in early March. We signed an agreement on operations cooperation in February 2012. Our information and technical support helped to shut down a big cartel headed by a Mexican, Martin Flores, who was working for the Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas. This cartel has established close ties with European criminals to get cocaine not only into Europe, but into Russia too. We are also examining the cases of people from the Russian Federation there, jointly monitoring the situation together with the Nicaraguan security services.
Vladimir Putin: How many people do you have working for the service now?
Viktor Ivanov: We have a staff of 35,000 people. We are in the process of implementing earlier decisions that will optimise the service.
Vladimir Putin: The service was originally established as part of the Tax Police’s reorganisation, and my hope then was to form a professional nucleus of people who would start working quickly and effectively in this new area. Overall this objective has succeeded, but the danger remains great and the service still has very serious work ahead. We have to protect our people from the drugs threat and do even more than has been the case so far.
What do you think are the biggest priorities and problems in the upcoming period?
Viktor Ivanov: What is really dramatic about the situation now, not just in Russia but all around the world, is that the drug addicts themselves are also the retailers, the people out selling the drugs in the streets. In order to earn the money to buy their next dose they go to work for the bigger bosses in the next link up, sell a dozen-odd doses and earn the dose on which they’ve become physically dependent. Our task is therefore two-fold in nature. We have to continue making our policing measures more effective, working together with the Interior Ministry, security services and border guards, and at the same time we also have to reduce the demand for drugs. This task is addressed through organising work to help the addicts overcome their dependence. This involves developing a nationwide system of comprehensive rehabilitation and re-socialisation for drug users and programmes to help get them back into society.
Vladimir Putin: What are your relations with other government agencies and regional authorities like?
Viktor Ivanov: Mr President, I gratefully note that it was together with the Healthcare Ministry and [Healthcare Minister] Ms Skvortsova that we initiated the plans for establishing this nationwide rehabilitation programme. You gave the instruction to develop a programme of this kind last November. We are working in close cooperation with the Healthcare Ministry and with another government ministry of great importance in this area – the Labour and Social Protection Ministry. Their efforts are essential too because drug users and their families are essentially all people in difficult life circumstances and the state authorities need to help them. This help has to come, above all, through rehabilitation and re-socialisation that gets them back into society.
I think our cooperation is constructive. This is the first time we are really trying to address this problem in Russia, and in this sense we are pioneers, but we are not pioneers at the global level, because programmes of this kind are already being carried out in the EU countries and in the United States. The close cooperation through the Russian-US presidential anti-drug commission has given us the chance to see at the grass roots level just how this work can be organised.
Vladimir Putin: What about cooperation with the regions?
Viktor Ivanov: Work with the regions is a huge area. I especially highlight the governors’ role because, in accordance with the regulations [on drug control commissions in the Russian regions], they are the commission heads. We are trying to not just strengthen our cooperation but are working as closely as possible with the very important link, this very important part of our society.
I try to get beyond my Moscow office in my work, holding meetings in practically all the different federal districts and in different regions. I won’t name them all – the list is long. These could be described as brainstorming sessions with not only officials taking part but also healthcare professionals, people from the social protection agencies and NGOs, lawyers and people from drug treatment services, and also people who have gone through rehabilitation programmes themselves and have their own experience and their own views on the issue. This is all extremely important for making our decisions on the programme we are developing.