MOSCOW, February 15 (RIA Novosti) – About a third of heroin produced in Afghanistan enters Russia, a Kremlin official said Saturday.
The drugs are either sold in Russia or pass through the country en route to other destinations including Europe, Zamir Kabulov, the presidential envoy to Afghanistan, told Ekho Moskvy radio.
Kabulov complained that US troops stationed in the Central Asian country as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force were not doing enough to battle the drug trade there, an accusation Russia has repeatedly made against the United States.
“The Americans make excuses, saying that these tasks [of fighting drugs] are not included in the UN mandate, but in Colombia they act differently, since Colombian cocaine goes to the United States, while only about 4-5 percent of Afghan heroin ends up on the US black market,” said Kabulov, who is also Russia’s former ambassador to Afghanistan.
Kabulov said the volume of heroin being produced in Afghanistan had increased by several times in the past few decades, echoing comments made last year by Russia’s federal drug control watchdog that heroin production in the war-torn country had risen four-fold in the past decade.
A UN report published late last year noted that the area under cultivation for opium poppy in Afghanistan rose in 2013 by one-third to 209,000 hectares.
The landlocked country is the world’s leading producer and cultivator of opium, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, accounting for 74 percent of all illicit opiates on the global market in 2012.
The drug business has been a major source of income for Taliban warlords, bringing them hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
Russia holds the first place worldwide for the number of heroin addicts per capita. The number of drug addicts in the country is estimated at 8.5 million people, or almost six percent of the total population, a government report said last year, and an estimated 90 percent of them are heroin addicts.
Some 30,000 Russians die from heroin use every year, according to official statistics.
Moscow has repeatedly expressed concern about a surge in terrorism and drug smuggling out of Afghanistan after ISAF troops leave the country by the end of this year.