Russia pledges funds to stem Kyrgyz drug trade



Russia pledges funds to stem Kyrgyz drug trade Bishkek: Russia's top anti-drugs official pledged millions of dollars to Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday as part of a three-year programme to fight the trafficking of drugs from Afghanistan through the volatile Central Asian state.

Russia, which like the United States operates a military air base in Kyrgyzstan, will provide technical and financial aid to the former Soviet republic from April, Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia's Federal Drug Control Service, told a news conference.

"We understand Kyrgyzstan's financial and budgetary difficulties, and Moscow has held out its hand to Bishkek. This is in the interests of both Russia and the Kyrgyz Republic," he said.

Kyrgyzstan, where a fledgling Parliament is attempting to restore order after the President was overthrown last April and ethnic riots in June killed at least 400 people, lies on a major drug trafficking route out of Afghanistan.

After Tajikistan, the country of 5.4 million people is the poorest in Central Asia. Unrest last year contributed to runaway inflation and a 1.4 percent decline in gross domestic product.

Ivanov said the volatile situation in Kyrgyzstan was helping to facilitate the narcotics trade. Many of the Afghan drugs trafficked through Central Asia are consumed in Russia.

Russia has one of the world's biggest heroin problems, with up to 3 million addicts according to local non-governmental organisations. About 21 percent of the 375 tonnes of heroin produced from Afghanistan's opium fields finds its way through Central Asia into Russia, United Nations data shows.

"We know that drug barons have participated directly in destabilising the situation in Kyrgyzstan," Ivanov said. "All of this is nothing other than the subsidisation of criminality in Central Asia on a giant scale."

He said Russia would finance and supply computers and other special equipment to conduct search operations. He declined to name the exact sum to be provided by Moscow.

Bureau Report