Struggle against drug aggression to top agenda of Dushanbe summit, CIS heads' talks in Chisinau - 5 October, 2002

Issues of fighting narco-aggression in Central Asia are to become the focus of talks between the heads of state of the Central Asian Cooperation Organization, which started its work in Dushanbe on Saturday.

Almaz Garifulin, head of the Department for Controlling Drugs under the Kyrgyz government, told RIA Novosti exclusively that presently the situation around illegal drug turnover in Central Asian republics "has somewhat stabilized." In his words, it's first of all connected with military operations by the anti-terrorist coalition on Afghan territory, which frustrated the well-working drug trafficking.

Nonetheless, Kyrgyz experts forecast that the number of attempts to illegally transit drugs via Central Asian republics' territory is likely to skyrocket, for according to international experts' data, 3,500-5,000 tons of opium and heroin are still stored on Afghan territory, "the yield" of the present year not considered.

Kyrgyz drug fighters are seriously concerned about the growth in the number of crimes related to heavy drug trafficking in the region. Since this year's beginning, Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies have confiscated over 170 kg of heroin, compared to last year's 88 kg. Batches of narcotics passing via Central Asia have substantially grown. A drug dealer with 60 kg of heroin hidden in his car's petrol tank was detained in the Kyrgyz capital in April. The situation is the same in other states of the region.

As of today, the Republican Narcology Center under the Kyrgyz Health Ministry has registered over 5,000 opium addicts; however, in expert estimates, the real number of those addicted to drugs is at least ten times higher. This is conditioned by a relative availability of narcotics in the region. Specialists say one kilo of heroin in Kyrgyzstan costs about $7,000-8,000, whereas in Russia and West Europe the prices for it are a dozen times higher, which allows low-income strata of the population to get involved in drug trade.

All these data, in Garifulin's words, give us grounds for saying that Central Asian and CIS republics are on the whole exposed to narco-aggression on the part of international criminal organizations, that earmark the laundered money from illegal drug trade to finance terrorism and religious extremism.

According to RIA Novosti, it is expected that issues of interaction of the CIS states in the struggle against "narcotization" will become a key problem at the talks at the CIS Heads' Council session, due to be held in Chisinau October 7th. Summit participants plan to consider a project of cooperation conception of the CIS member states in counteracting illegal drug and psychotropic substance turnover.

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Author`s name Petr Ermilin