PUTIN SETS THE TASK OF CHANGING THE TREND IN DRUG TRADING

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MOSCOW, March 30, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Vladimir Putin has set the goal of reversing the situation in the drugs trade.

"The country is looking to you for results. The situation must be reversed," the president said in his concluding remarks addressed to participants in a board meeting of the Federal Service for Control Over Traffic in Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances.

"Over the past ten years the drug business has spread throughout Russia. After a lapse of ten years we have realized the magnitude of the threat and so it was decided to set up your service, which is among the largest in the world. We agreed to establish it, deliberately making it autonomous, bearing in mind things that accompany narcotics trading - corruption - including in the bodies of authority and in the law enforcement sphere," the head of state said.

He did not rule out that the fight against the drug threat may be examined at one of the meetings of the State Council presidium or at a session of the State Council itself.

Putin said one of the causes of drugs spreading in Russia is the lack of borders in southern Russia. "Why have we faced such a big problem? Following the collapse of the USSR, we had no and even now practically lack full-scale borders in the south of Russia. The drug threat was not properly understood. Besides, the socio-economic situation of the people deteriorated. We lived from crisis to crisis. The public mind and state-sponsored programs gave pride of place to other problems. Few if any thought of the narcotics," said the head of state.

He recalled that the service has a staff of 40,000. Something like that exists, according to the president, in the US, but there the personnel of a similar structure numbers only 10,000.

Putin pointed out that serious tasks are now facing the country in the sphere of social and economic development. "I am sure that we will cope with their solution. The main of them (tasks) is the struggle against poverty and its solution should not lead to an expanded market for drug dealers, since we know that 'drugs go where the money is'," the president said.

"For this not to happen, we should work hard," the president said.

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