MOSCOW, September 13 (RIA Novosti) – Almost 1,900 organized criminal groups and 150 major drug cartels in Central Asia are trafficking illicit drugs from Afghanistan to Russia, the head of Moscow's counter-narcotics agency said Friday.
The drugs gangs employ some 20,000 active members and use about 100,000 drug "mules" to transport narcotics to Russia, said Viktor Ivanov, who heads Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN).
Citing data collected by his agency, Russian police, intelligence services and the military, he said that more than 2,000 drug-processing laboratories are concentrated in northern Afghanistan operating as an industrial “narcotics cluster” specializing exclusively on the Russian market.
Ivanov said in May that there are about 1.5 million heroin users in Russia, which has a population of about 143 million.
Almost 150,000 are jailed annually for drug-related crimes in Russia, according to this year's data from the FSKN, with some 30,000 Russians dying from heroin abuse every year, according to official statistics.
Afghanistan remains the world’s leading producer of heroin and cultivator of poppy, according the UN’s World Drug Report 2013.