Insurgents from Syria could start infiltrating Caucasus soon - Russian drug control chief

Viktor Ivanov, the chief of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service, warns that insurgents from Syria could start infiltrating the Caucasus region.

Viktor Ivanov, the chief of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service, warns that insurgents from Syria could start infiltrating the Caucasus region.

"Aside from the obvious process of rapid destabilization of the entire region, it is necessary to carefully analyze the vector of expected redeployment of foreign mercenaries from Syria overhanging the Caucasus, which is only 600 kilometers away," Ivanov said at a ceremony of closing Operation Channel Caucasus under the Common Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) auspices in Yerevan on Friday.

"Our experts are predicting that foreign mercenaries in Syria, who have been structured into paramilitary groups competing with each other, will be out of the running in the near future and will swarm toward the Caucasus," Ivanov said.

Once in the Caucasus, the Syrian fighters will be trying "to harness the gold-bearing transit of Afghan drugs, which would bring them radically larger profits than they have now," he said.

"The number of extremist international mercenaries concentrated in Syria is extremely large. And our task is to plan systemic measures to undermine the drug transit infrastructure in the Caucasus so as to prevent the building of financial, organizational, and logistical basis for this scum in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea region," Ivanov said.

"The greater Caucasus is under strong pressure of huge masses of Afghan heroin and hashish," he said.

Over 12 tonnes of drugs, including 10.5 tonnes of Afghan opiates, among it over 600 kilos of heroin, was seized during Operation Channel Caucasus, in which 50,000 security officers from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan took part, Ivanov said.

Ivanov said earlier that up to 100,000 people die in Russia yearly from drugs. He said also that 8.5 million people in Russia take drugs regularly or sporadically, and 18.5 million Russians have tried drugs at least once in their life.

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