Narco cop flays US on Afghan drug trade issue

MOSCOW: Moscow’s top anti-drug cop slammed Washington today over US policies on opium production in Afghanistan, news agencies reported, amid concern over a deadly wave of heroin use in Russia.

“US statements on its refusal to eradicate opium plantations ... sound like a solid guarantee of impunity for drug producers,” Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia’s Federal Narcotics Control Service, was quoted as saying.

After taking office last

year, US President Barack Obama made a major

policy shift by ending a military drive to destroy poppies, believing it alienated Afghanistan’s poorest who only grew the crop to make money. But the shift upset Moscow, which says some 30,000 Russians died in 2009 because of their consumption of Afghan heroin.

Ivanov also blasted

NATO for targeting poppy growers linked to the Taliban insurgency, deriding their production as a tiny fraction of the total opium produced in Afghanistan.

“NATO commanders have focussed their efforts solely on battling these producers, who are in the minority, while generously leaving the task of fighting the other 99 per cent to Afghan regional authorities,” he said.

War-ravaged Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of heroin. In 2009 the potential gross export value of opium from the country was $2.8 billion, according to the UN drugs agency.

Much of that heroin is smuggled through Central Asia into Russia and on to Europe, contributing to Russia’s drug epidemic. Some 90 per cent of heroin consumed in Russia had Afghan origins, Ivanov said.

Ivanov also claimed that Russia’s arch-foe Georgia was a key smuggling

route for Afghan heroin, calling the Georgian ports of Batumi and Poti and the city of Kobuleti major drug-trafficking centres.