Russia ‘alarmed’ over record Afghan heroin bust

(AFP Photo / Bay Ismoyo)


The Federal Drug Service reported that over 175 kilograms of heroin have been seized in a year long police operation in Naberezhniye Chelny. The record haul points to failed drug-trafficking efforts by coalition forces in Afghanistan.

For the past four years, Russian police have been on the trail of a transnational drug-trafficking ring that has tentacles penetrating deep into Russia. This week, the sting operation, codenamed ‘Operation Cartel,’ made a spectacular haul.

Viktor Ivanov, Federal Drug Control Service chief, gave details of the final moments of the operation that focused on the Volga and Northwestern regions.

A BMW X-5 with Russian license plates was stopped in Naberezhniye Chelny on the morning of November 23, and 90 kilograms of 50 percent pure heroin was seized from hiding places (inside of the vehicle),” Ivanov told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday.

Another 85 kilograms of heroin was subsequently seized in the course of police searches at the suspects’ apartments. In total, “more than 175 kilograms of heroin” was seized, he said. To put into scale the significance of the operation, 750 kilograms of heroin were “tracked down and destroyed” in the previous year, the official added.

As the Russian anti-drug chief reported about the success of his agency he once again pointed out the problems it was facing both at home and especially abroad as the failed coalition policy in Afghanistan allows this country to remain world’s top illegal drug producer.

Ivanov noted that even though Afghanistan’s opium industry poses a direct threat to the European Union, the NATO bloc does little to stop it, according to the officials “they cannot work outside the European Union”. Ivanov added that Russia is interested in cooperation with NATO on the problem but NATO still refuses to accredit a representative of the Russian drug enforcement service to its headquarters in Brussels.

Ivanov and other Russian officials have repeatedly voiced concern that the flow of drugs from Afghanistan will increase once coalition forces leave the country in 2014.

Even without foreign support Russia is trying to deal with the problem. The Federal Anti-drug service has opened an office in Kabul and the information from it allowed for several successful operations, like the Naberezhnye Chelny bust.

However, as Ivanov pointed out last year, Russia’s ultimate objective is to set up a special international agency, working in cooperation with the Afghan government and the international organizations like UN, OSCE and CSTO. The agency will fight the international drug cartels responsible for heroin trafficking and eventually could lead to the creation of a stable system for Eurasian anti-drug security, the Russian official stated.