Home Opinion Ukraine has turned into paradise of drug lords and gangsters

Ukraine has turned into paradise of drug lords and gangsters

People Of Ukraine
People Of Ukraine

While for the past few decades, Ukraine has been considered as paradise by drug lords and gangsters, with illicit substances flowing to and from many countries including Afghanistan, for the last two years situation has further worsened as the country is not only playing the role of hub of drug, weapon and human trafficking, it also has become an harboring and exporting terrorism within neighboring nations and beyond. Production and trafficking of illicit drugs including synthetic narcotics have been booking in Ukraine for years, while it is well-documented that the Taliban, Islamic State (ISIS) and Al Qaeda are heavily dependent on production and trafficking of drugs, where these outfits consider Ukraine as the most convenient place.

According to Russian news outlet Sputnik, back in June 2002, the US Justice Department emphasized Ukraine’s growing importance as a transit point for heroin trafficking largely originating from Afghanistan which went through the Balkan and Northern routes. The US-backed 2014 coup in Ukraine exacerbated the problem and was followed by a spike in corruption, gang crime, and weapons smuggling. The role of Ukraine as a transit point for extremists and illicit drugs to Europe has also increased.

It said, in July 2015, Italian MEP Matteo Salvini drew attention to ISIS sympathizers fighting on the side of the Kiev regime in Donbass in an official letter to the EU leadership.

In 2019 and 2020, British, Polish and Ukrainian investigative journalists revealed that ISIS jihadists originating, in particular, from post-Soviet space used Ukraine as a transit point to and out of the Middle East in the course of the civil war in Syria which started in 2011. Having sustained defeat from the Russian Air Forces in Syria, ISIS started to use Ukraine as a safe haven.

According to Sputnik, Ukraine’s role as a hub for ISIS terrorists could be closely connected with drug trafficking. Establishing a foothold in Afghanistan in 2015, ISIS militants used the Afghan opiate trade as a source of income since at least 2014, according to the Russian Federal Service for Drug Control.

“The large-scale transit of Afghan heroin acts as a renewable financial base for the functioning of the Islamic State, which extracts fabulous profits by providing half of the total volume of heroin supplied to Europe through destabilized Iraq and some African countries”, the Russian agency stated on November 26, 2014.

“In 2015, the Afghan branch of ISIS officially declared its establishment”, Andrey Serenko, director of the Analytical Center of Afghanistan policy, told Sputnik. “[ISIS-Khorasan] emerged from the ruins of some groups of dissatisfied Taliban fighters whose leaders for some reason did not agree on interests with the Taliban leadership. From the first months of its existence, the Afghan branch of ISIS began to fight for jihad resources. The large Afghan ‘jihad industry’, then, and even now, relies heavily on the drug business. If in Syria and Iraq such sources of economic power of jihad were the illegal trade in petroleum products, then in Afghanistan it was drugs”.

“In [Afghanistan’s] provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar [infamous for heroin production – Sputnik], ISIS reached an agreement with the local tribes who joined ISIS and still sympathize with the terror group. Accordingly, in several counties, for example, Achin County, ISIS was able to seize control of laboratories producing heroin”, the expert continued.

US global policy think tank RAND pointed out in July 2017 that ISIS viewed conflict zones in Ukraine and Syria as an ample opportunity to connect to underground criminal networks to facilitate the drug trade. ISIS recruits traveled back and forth, relying on drug trafficking as a means of generating revenue.

“The drug business is not only about cargo, it is primarily about people, people who are imported, people who settle locally, people who settle somewhere. Because heroin itself does not travel by itself, someone transports it. That is, someone must control the routes”, explained Serenko, adding that Afghan jihadists have regarded Ukraine as a convenient transit corridor to Europe since at least 2010.

In 2021, the Russian Interior Ministry drew attention to the increasing use of Ukrainian ports for the transit of opiates from Afghanistan. The ministry’s head, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, underscored the influence of “the Afghan factor” on drug crime in the Eastern European state alongside the heightened risks of terrorist and extremist activity.

In August 2022, speaking at a ministerial meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Vladimir Kolokoltsev again emphasized the growing flow of psychotropic substances from Afghanistan.

“Despite the declarative statements of the authorities, the flow of drugs from Afghanistan does not weaken. Moreover, the ‘range’ is expanding to include methamphetamine and marijuana”, the minister highlighted.

According to Andrey Serenko, Ukraine has become a lucrative market for methamphetamine, a synthetic drug, which today is taking a leading position in the drug market not only in Afghanistan but in the entire world.

Citing Afghan experts specializing in drug trafficking issues, he noted that Ukrainians have become one of the main consumers of the psychotropic substance.

“[Afghan experts] believe that today, during the conflict, the Ukrainian army can use methamphetamine in order to maintain the combat readiness of its military personnel. [The drug ensures] the absence of fear, the removal of fatigue, the unique ability to not eat or drink for two or three days, not to be distracted by any inconvenience”, Serenko said.

He continued that Afghan experts consider Ukraine as an emerging transit point for this type of drug on its route to Europe, where the demand for Afghan-produced methamphetamine is rising.

“Therefore, these two directions, which today are identified on the basis of the supply of synthetic drugs from Afghanistan to Ukraine, and through Ukraine to the West and Arab countries, they are – according to the assessments of my Afghan friends, who are now experts in this area, and whose opinion I much trust – the main ones”, Serenko underscored.

Alexander Mikhailov, retired Russian lieutenant general of drug police told Sputnik, “It appears, however, that neither Western nor Ukrainian authorities are interested in addressing the problem which continues to worsen, according to.

“Taking into account the present situation in Ukraine, there is no war on drugs there at all. And by definition, it doesn’t work. Moreover, today it should be noted that a large number of those Ukrainian citizens who have concentrated in Europe were previously involved in drug trafficking. On the one hand, we are dealing with supplies, and in Europe we are dealing with sales, which are carried out by the same Ukrainians who were doing this before fleeing to Europe. This radically changes the situation”.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and Editor, Blitz, a newspaper publishing from Bangladesh since 2003. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers. Follow him on X @Salah_Shoaib

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