OPIUM FOR THE MASSES

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OPIUM FOR THE MASSES

Izvestia, September 6, 2000, p. 3

Russia remains the most attractive transshipment point for the global drug trade. Between August 31 and September 2, the Russian Border Guard Service confiscated more than a ton of opium on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border. According to Colonel-General Alexei Kozhevnikov, Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Border Guard Service, “this operation is the most important in the history of the Service”. But judging by reports of the intelligence service, tons of drugs are concentrated in Afghanistan near the Russian border.

The situation in the zone covered by the Russian Border Guard Service could worsen if the Taliban manages to force out the opposition from the Takhar province. About 90% of Afghanistan’s drug business is controlled by the Taliban movement. Control over the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border is a vital issue for the Taliban.

In order to understand what kind of money is involved here, let’s calculate the worth of a ton of opium which was confiscated by the Border Guard troops. After processing 1,000 kilograms of opium, drug dealers have about 100 kilograms of heroin. In Afghanistan a kilogram of heroin costs about $700. In Russia a kilogram of heroin costs from $50,000 to $70,000. In other words the confiscated drug shipment is worth about $5 million. During this year, 2,404 kilograms of opium and 544 kilograms of heroin have been confiscated. Simple arithmetic shows that this runs into millions of dollars. General Kozhevnikov says this is the main source of the military strength of the Islamic fundamentalists.

Russia’s border with Kazakhstan is considered a public thoroughfare (the length of the border is about 7,000 kilometers). Alexei Kozhevnokov told us that “this border requires serious strengthening”. But alas, there is no money.

In the meantime, the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry has reached an agreement with the Defense Ministry of Kyrgyzstan on a technical strengthening of the republic’s border.

VISAS CAUSE A LOT OF PROBLEMS

Izvestia, September 6, 2000, p. 3

The recent statement of Moscow concerning Russia’s decision to pull out of the Bishkek accord on visa-free travel within the CIS has caused shock in other CIS countries. The situation with the named countries is clear. But the situation with so-called unacknowledged states becomes more complicated.

Firstly, this decision will affect the “conflict territories”: South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which declared independence at the end of the 1980s. Georgia, to which these territories belonged, does not acknowledge the sovereignty of these autonomous regions, and tries to gain control over them using force. Currently South Ossetia and Abkhazia are not controlled by the Republic of Georgia.

SUPPORT FOR THE PRESIDENT

Trud, September 6, 2000, p. 1

In August the VTsIOM agency did a poll on public attitudes toward the president’s actions. It should be noted that Putin’s approval rating remains quite high, despite pessimistic predictions by certain Russian and foreign political analysts: 65% of respondents support Putin’s activities. This is slighly less than in July. More than two-thirds of respondents said that the president keeps his word, or tries to keep his promises.

Respondents had to answer several questions;

What have been the negative points of Putin’s performance?

Rising prices: 39%

Disorder in Russia: 23%

Casualties and the lack of a political settlement in Chechnya: 22%

Lack of a program aimed at recovering from the crisis: 19%

No negatives: 23%

Does it concern you that Vladimir Putin has not yet resolved the problem of Chechnya?

I am concerned: 77%

I am not concerned: 20%

Uncertain: 3%

At the same time, half of respondents think that the military operation in Chechnya should be continued. About 39% of respondents support the idea of negotiations (22% in February).

In general, the political situation in Russia is quite stable. This may improve the situation in the economy and the social sphere.

RUSSIA WILL NOT IMPORT GRAIN

Rossiyskaya Gazeta, September 6, 2000, p. 1

The shortfall in fodder grain this year will be about 5-6 million tons. This statement was made by Agricultural Minister Alexei Gordeev. At the same time, he noted that the government does not plan to buy grain from abroad.

INDIA WILL BUY T-90 TANKS

Tribuna, September 6, 2000, p. 1

The Ural tank will soon reach India. An Indian ambassador to the Russian Federation, who recently visited Yekaterinburg, confirmed the intention of his country to buy 300 T-90S missile tanks. Specialists call the T-90S a flying tank.

HAS KHATTAB ESCAPED TO TAJIKISTAN?

Moskovsky Komsomolets, September 6, 2000, p. 2

We have already presented some reports about Khattab’s possible emigration. According to our sources, this autumn the terrorist is to leave Chechnya. The Russian special forces are hunting for him, and Khattab has to hide in the mountains. In addition, Islamic states do not finance the Chechen Jihad because they understood that resistance to the federal forces is futile.

Another reason why Khattab intends to move to Tajikistan is drugs. This region is known as a transit route for heroin and opium from the East to Europe. Practically all wars in Tajikistan since 1992 have been connected with the redistribution of spheres of influence between drug dealers.

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