Russian Foreign Ministry press spokesman Grigory Tarasov yesterday derided recent U.S. reports of illegal arms dealings between Russian crime groups and Colombian drug dealers as figments of the American imagination. Tarasov also suggested that the reports were part of a cynical effort to keep Russian arms manufacturers out of the Latin American market and were motivated by the fears of Russia’s U.S. arms competitors. (Russian agencies, October 9) Recent U.S. undercover operations are said to have revealed efforts by Russian crime groups to sell a submarine, helicopters, and surface-to-air missiles to Latin American drug lords. (See Monitor, September 30)
Tarasov’s remarks come despite warnings from Russia’s own security services that a growing partnership between Russian and Latin American crime groups is bringing increasing amounts of illegal narcotics into Russia. The Russian Interior Ministry reports that the volume of drugs confiscated in Russia has grown by nearly ten times over the past 10 years, while the Federal Security Service (FSB) is said to be aware of a mounting threat from the countries of the "Andes belt" — Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia. The FSB reports that, as the drug barons expand into new markets and the Western countries make the entry of illegal drugs into their countries more difficult, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine have been targeted both as markets for drugs and as distribution points for the delivery of drugs into Germany and throughout Europe. (Izvestia, September 30)
Against this background, Russia’s ambassador to Bogota said on September 2 that Colombia is prepared to sign an agreement with Russia on cooperation in the battle against drug trafficking. Under the proposed agreement, Russian secret agents and police officers would travel to Colombia to help identify links between Russia and Colombian crime groups. According to the ambassador, Russian police have seized more than 50 tons of Colombian cocaine over the past two years, an amount that he said is nevertheless only a "part of the total quantity" pouring into Russia. (Itar-Tass, September 2)
Another Call to the Colors.