28 Mar 06

Russia's counternarcotics agency is to send 50 of its staff abroad to
work out of Russian embassies, with the first representatives going to
the Russian embassy in Kabul. Later, staff of the Federal Service for
Control over the Trafficking of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances
will be sent to Armenia and Belarus, and to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and
Tajikistan, countries which the service says are now staging posts on
the drug-trafficking route from Afghanistan northwards. The following
is the text of report by Russian website on 28 March:

Staffers of Gosnarkokontrol [Federal Service for Control over the
Trafficking of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances] are going to be
working under Russian diplomatic missions abroad. The relevant edict
has been signed by [President] Vladimir Putin. Experts are doubtful
whether these people will succeed in halting the flow of narcotics.

On the other hand, human rights champions believe that maybe this
will teach the narcotics control service how to work and not to just
hound veterinary surgeons through the courts.

On Tuesday [28 March] Vladimir Putin signed an edict "On official
representatives of the Russian Federation Federal Service for Control
over the Trafficking of Narcotics in Foreign States". According to this
document the service is authorized to have official representatives
and their deputies abroad numbering a total of 50 persons. These
staffers are to work as part of the diplomatic missions but without
being included on the embassy staff roll. It is assumed that this
will simplify the service's contacts with their foreign colleagues.

A mission of the Gosnarkokontrol, as one of the first, will open in
Afghanistan from where the main mass of heroin makes its way both
onto the Russian and the world drugs markets.

As was told by Oleg Kharichkin, deputy director of the
Russian Federation Federal Service for Control Over the Trafficking
of Narcotics, staffers periodically travel as it is to that country
but they will now stay in Kabul on a permanent basis. Later, the
service's missions will also be opened in states belonging to the
Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) - Armenia, Belarus,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. According to Kharichkin,
"this will be especially timely in those countries which are becoming
staging posts on the northern route for the movement of narcotics into
our country. That is, on the route for the trafficking of narcotics
out of Afghanistan. It is also assumed that Gosnarkokontrol staffers
will be sent to other Asian states and also to countries of Latin
America and Europe.

The service director will decide who will be going abroad, after which,
as Kharichkin explained, "the candidacies of these staffers will have
to be coordinated with the Foreign Ministry and with the states to
which they are being sent".

According to Kharichkin, it is assumed that two staffers will work
in the missions. "Most likely people able to speak the language of
the country where they will be working will be sent there," he added.

According to Kharichkin, the experience of such missions is not
unique. The DEA - the American Drug Enforcement Administration -
works according to the same principle. The Russian office of the US
drugs police is in the embassy building in Moscow.

In the opinion of human rights champions, there will certainly be no
harm done by the new Gosnarkontrol subdivision, but at the moment it
is not clear how much benefit will derive from it.

"International contacts are necessary and there can be no particular
objections here. After all, these drugs police will not be keeping
tabs on the staffers of the embassies," was told by Lev
Levinson, head of the New Drugs Policy public organization. "It is
better to direct one's efforts at something serious than to engage
in dubious affairs in one's own country." Especially as, according
to him, other countries also have an interest in this: After all,
Russia is also a transit zone for narcotics. "Apart from Afghanistan,
'synthetic drugs' are brought into Russia from Poland, Germany, and
the Baltic States, and cocaine is brought in from South America. So
there is certainly something to work on," he believes.

Oleg Zykov, president of the No to Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
Foundation is of the same opinion. "I welcome any structural
subdivision if it is going to be effective. I hope that this is a
movement in the direction of control over hard drugs," Zykov says.

"In any case, if these representatives are going to end up in
countries where there is a positive experience of, and not repressive
technologies for, combating drugs, they might at least borrow their