Ivanov Links NATO to Increase in Drug Use

The Federal Drug Control Service on Thursday blamed NATO's failure to stamp out heroin production in Afghanistan for a rise in domestic drug use.

U.S.-led forces entered Afghanistan to chase out Taliban Islamists after the al-Qaida attacks on the United States in 2001, but NATO members only agreed last year that they could carry out direct strikes on drug traffickers.

This was too late to prevent drug addiction becoming a serious problem in Russia, Federal Drug Control Service head Viktor Ivanov told a news conference.

Afghanistan supplies 90 percent of the world's heroin.

"The growth of narcotics from abroad has continued since the appearance of troops [in Afghanistan] in 2001," Ivanov said. "[NATO] had a remit to combat terrorism and not to combat drugs."

Ivanov said 80 people die in Russia every day from drugs and another 250 people become addicts.

About 80 percent of people with HIV in Russia are drug users injecting themselves with infected needles, UN officials said at a conference in Moscow last year.

Ties between NATO and Russia -- which lies on the main drug transit route to Europe -- have been strained since August's war in Georgia.

However, NATO is trying to enlist Russia's help to ensure that supplies reach its forces in Afghanistan as Taliban attacks threaten NATO's main supply line from Pakistan.