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Cablegate: Addiction, Smuggling, and Crime in the Russian Far East

VZCZCXRO5701
RR RUEHCHI RUEHFK RUEHHM RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHPB
DE RUEHVK #0102/01 2621020
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181020Z SEP 08
FM AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK
INFO RUEABND/DEA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZU/ASIAN PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION COLLECTIVE
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0001
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 1098

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VLADIVOSTOK 000102

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR PGOV PREL KCRM RS
SUBJECT: ADDICTION, SMUGGLING, AND CRIME IN THE RUSSIAN FAR EAST

VLADIVOSTO 00000102 001.2 OF 002


1. Summary. Speakers at a drug prevention conference discussed
the challenges involved in fighting drug use and trafficking in
the Russian Far East, an area with higher-than-average drug use
and drug-related crime, and that is rife with smuggling. A
predominant theme throughout the conference was the need for
increased international cooperation with Russia's Asian
neighbors, support for which was evidenced by the participation
of several Asian representatives, including a large Chinese
delegation.

-------------------------------------
Extensive International Participation
-------------------------------------

2. The Primorye Kray Administration, the Federal Drug Control
Service (FDCS) and Far Eastern State University (FESU) organized
a conference titled "Drug Addiction and Crime Prevention in the
Asia-Pacific Region" September 9-10 in Vladivostok. The event
attracted about 350 participants from Russia and neighboring
countries, and included GOR representatives, scientists,
doctors, and NGO representatives as speakers. Organizers of the
event emphasized the need for international cooperation in drug
interdiction. Speakers included a Chinese researcher, a Korean
social worker and the Japanese Consul General, and attendees
included a group of about 25 government and academic experts
from China.

--------------------------------------------- --
Primorye Drug Rates Higher Than Russian Average
--------------------------------------------- --

3. Major General Aleksandr Beklemishev, Head of the Russian Far
East Division of the FDCS, painted a grim picture of the drug
situation in the Russian Far East, noting that drug-related
crime and usage statistics for the region remained considerably
higher than national levels. According to the Ministry of
Internal Affairs, during the first half of 2008, drug
related-crimes were 31 percent more common in the Russian Far
East than elsewhere in Russia (112 per one hundred thousand
residents compared to 86), and drug addiction was 19 percent
more prevalent (292 registered drug addicts per 100 thousand
residents compared to 245). However, Vladimir Kurilov, Rector
of FESU reported that official data are inaccurate, and that the
real addiction rate is likely 1.5 to 2 times higher than in the
rest of Russia.

4. In addition, Authorities confiscate eight to nine tons of
marijuana, 300 to 350 kilos of hashish, and 100-120 kilos of
hashish oil in the RFE Federal District annually. FDCS officers
have destroyed several tons of cannabis plants and made 847
heroin confiscations so far this year in the region.

5. Primorye Governor Sergey Darkin also spoke, making sure to
point out his Kray Administration cooperates extensively with
the FDCS, and has allotted 82 million rubles (USD 3.4 million)
towards its 2005-2010 "Primorye without Drugs" prevention
program.

-------------------------------------------
China a Major Factor in Far East Drug Trade
-------------------------------------------

6. General Beklemishev also stated that his agency has seen a
sharp increase in the amount of cross-border trafficking, with
registered smuggling cases rising steadily from only 14 in 2004
to 85 in 2007. Primorye and Amurskaya Oblasts in particular
continue to experience high levels of smuggling due to their
locations along the China border.

7. Aleksandr Rolik, Head of Primorye Regional FDCS, stressed
the international aspects of the problem. He stated that
Primorye-based smugglers direct their product toward China,
taking advantage of the higher prices that cannabis-based drugs
fetch there. Rolik made a point of emphasizing that increased
cooperation between his officers and counterparts from Japan,
the Republic of Korea and China have been instrumental in the
past, and must continue to grow. He used as an example
cooperation with Japanese authorities that destroyed the main
opiate transit route from Central Asia to Japan in the late
nineties.

-----------------------------
Official Points Finger at U.S.
-----------------------------

8. Aleksandr Fyodorov, Deputy Director of the FDCS, pointed to
Afghanistan as the main cause of the increased global drug
trade, noting that the country's production of opium increased
from 42 tons 1984 to 8,100 tons in 2007. He wondered aloud why
drug production has experienced such a large surge in
Afghanistan, despite the U.S. and NATO military presence there.
[Note: His implied sentiment echoed a February Channel One TV

VLADIVOSTO 00000102 002.2 OF 002


broadcast that more directly alleged that the U.S. actively
encourages drug trafficking from Afghanistan to Europe. End
Note.]

--------
Comment
--------

9. The conference was an encouraging sign that the Russia is
searching to improve international collaboration among Pacific
Rim neighbors in its fight against illegal drugs. Though the
clear focus was on China -- which sent a large delegation and
was referred to extensively by many speakers -- it is important
to note that Afghanistan is also a key concern and that an
undercurrent of blaming the U.S. for Russia's drug woes is never
far from the surface.
ARMBRUSTER

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