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Interpol Predicts More Drug Traffic through Russia

February 2, 1996

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia has become an important conduit for illegal drugs destined for Western Europe, and trafficking is likely to increase with the ending of war in Bosnia, Interpol’s chief said Friday.

Russia’s porous post-Soviet borders, high level of corruption among government officials, excellent opportunities for money-laundering and huge domestic drug market have all contributed to steady growth in drug trafficking.

Bjorn Eriksson, Interpol president, said the easing of conflict in the former Yugoslavia would make Russia even more popular among drug traffickers transporting drugs from the Middle East and Asia. The drugs presumably would be taken from Russia through the Balkans to Western Europe.

``With production areas in the Middle East, Thailand and the Golden Triangle, from the logistical point of view it’s quite possible to use these transportation methods,″ said Eriksson, who is in Russia to discuss ways of curbing international crime.

In 1994, Russian officials seized 90.2 tons of drugs _ compared with 4.4 tons in 1985. Last year’s data hasn’t been released.

Police officials estimate that the seizures represent only 15 percent of Russia’s rapidly expanding drug trade, worth about $500 million in 1994, by conservative estimates.

Moscow has troops in Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia, to help protect its volatile border with Afghanistan. Tajikistan, wracked by a 1992 civil war and ensuing political unrest, has become a favorite route of drug traffickers, particularly those dealing in raw opium.

Russian border guards fighting pro-Islamic rebels trying to overthrow the Moscow-backed Tajik government have reported numerous seizures.

But police in Moscow say many Russian military officers were themselves involved in the smuggling, using army cargo planes to transport opium, hashish and other drugs from Afghanistan to Moscow.

Drugs also come from other ex-Soviet republics, where production has flourished because of slackening state control.

The growing drug traffic has been accompanied by a steady increase in the number of Russian drug addicts, which has doubled in the past decade to about 1.5 million people, or 1 percent of the population.

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