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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cherkesov Lauds Anti-Drug Efforts

Federal Drug Control Service chief Viktor Cherkesov on Wednesday touted his agency's efforts to combat drugs, saying a sharp post-Soviet increase in drug users had ended due to record drug seizures by his agency.

Cherkesov told reporters that the drug seizures had pushed up the street price of heroin, the drug of choice for young people, and made it less available to new users.

"The number of drug users is increasing, but the growth rate is now declining," Cherkesov said, citing statistics from health officials that show the number of new drug users registered went down in 2005 -- a first in 15 years.

He said the number of drug users has grown from 60,000 in the mid-1980s to 6 million, while the value of the illegal drugs market has surpassed $5 billion.

Cherkesov last month also announced an end to the sharp post-Soviet increase in drug users, and he said that the end had occurred sometime in the past 12 to 18 months.

He did not provide precise figures on Wednesday, and health officials could not be reached for comment.

Cherkesov also said Wednesday that his agency had seized 130 tons of drugs in 2004 -- 2.5 times more than the amount seized over the entire previous decade. He said a similar amount was seized in 2005.

He expressed dismay about the growth in the use of heroin. He said 4 tons -- or 40 million doses -- were seized this year, compared with just 6 kilograms in 1995.

As a result of the seizures, the price of the heroin, which almost exclusively comes from Afghanistan, has skyrocketed from $35,000 to $57,000 per kilogram, he said.

About 80,000 criminal cases were opened into suspected drug trafficking.

Cherkesov said that contrary to a popular perception that the drug trade is controlled by ethnicity-based gangs, such gangs only control 5 percent of the trade.

He said extremist groups in the Northern Caucasus actively participated in trafficking drugs from Afghanistan to southern Europe via Central Asian countries.

Last month, the Federal Drug Control Service signed a cooperation agreement with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and it signed a similar accord with the Chinese Public Security Ministry earlier this year.