Although Russia’s overall crime rate fell 9 percent from 1996 to 1997, drug use and drug-related crimes continued to rise rapidly, Russian deputy premier and interior minister Anatoly Kulikov said on January 6. Kulikov, who was speaking at a meeting of the government’s commission for combating drug trafficking, said that there are now more than two million active drug users in Russia and that the number of officially registered addicts — some 250,000 — has more than tripled over the past five years. The largest increase in drug use has been registered among women and teen-agers. Kulikov also said that the drug trade now brings more than $1 billion per year in profits to criminal groups in Russia, and described the country as a major market and key transit route for drugs, many of which come, he said, from Afghanistan. Kulikov, who heads the anti-drug commission, said that law enforcement agencies need more funding to combat the country’s growing drug problem. The commission includes representatives of all of Russia’s law enforcement agencies, as well as the Federal Border Service, the customs service, and the Foreign Ministry. Its January 6 meeting was only the third time it has convened since its founding in 1995. (AP, Itar-Tass, RIA, January 6)
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