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Drug Use and Addiction

The 1990s saw a dramatic increase of drug use and addiction in the Russian Federation. Laxity and corruption among border guards, combined with poverty and unemployment, has led to the explosion of a consumer drug market in Russia. In 1998, a report from the Russian Federation's Council on Foreign and Defense Policy announced a state of emergency: "The speed and scale of the distribution of narcotics on Russian territory during the last five years enables one to say that we are confronting a pandemic." The main flow of drugs, mostly heroin and opium, comes from central Asia--Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the former Soviet Republics Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.

·  More than 3 million Russians, or two percent of all men, women and children are drug users, and the rate continues to grow, according to Interior Ministry officials quoted in April, 2000. The majority of users are under 30.

·  By 1997, the annual amount of money turned over in drug sales was estimated at more than $2.5 billion U.S. dollars. This was a marked increase from the $1.5 billion estimated in 1996.

·  Drug use and addiction is taking a particularly high toll on the youth of Russia. The Health Ministry estimates that the drug addiction rate for teenagers rose by thirteen times over the decade, and that six percent of school-aged children take drugs. According to the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, the average life expectancy of addicts after they begin using narcotics is between 4 and 4.5 years, and the majority of addicts die before the age of 30.

·  Six out of 10 crimes against property in 1998 were committed by drug addicts, and the majority of those crimes were committed by individuals under 35, according to the report of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. Growing public concern about the extent of the problem and the lack of effective government response has led to the emergence of a grassroots movement to rid the country of drug dealers though vigilante justice. One such group, called "City Against Drugs," based in Yekaterinburg, combines raids during which suspected drug dealers are beaten and threatened with a controversial drug rehabilitation center whose harsh methods include handcuffing addicts to their beds and feeding them only bread and water for three weeks during withdrawal.

HIV Infection and AIDS

·  According to a World Health Organization report, the proportion of the population living with HIV doubled between end-1997 and end-1999 in the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. This marks the most rapid HIV growth rate in the world recorded in 1999. Over 2700 cases of HIV were reported in Moscow in the first nine months of 1999 alone - three times as many as in all previous years combined.

·  In November 1999, there were recorded 23,509 cases of the HIV infection and 445 deaths from AIDS, according to the Russian Ministry of Health's center on AIDS and HIV. The Ministry estimated that the actual number of infections could be as much as five times higher than the officially reported figures.

·  The increase of intravenous drug use is cited by Russian officials and the World Health Organization as the chief cause of the spread of HIV and AIDS. Drug addicts account for 90% of all HIV-infected people in Russia.

Men, Women, and Children

·  The total population of Russia is shrinking: in 1990, the population was 148.3 million; by 2015, it is expected to be as low as 138.4 million.

The suicide rate in Russia has risen 60% since 1989.

The life expectancy of a Russian man has fallen by 4 years since 1980 to 58 years.

·  Infertility is increasing by more than 3% a year, and 75% of all pregnant women in Russia have a serious pathology during their pregnancies.

The total number of young people (ages 15-29) in Russia is decreasing. According to the Russian State Committee on Youth Affairs, in 1998, the number of teenagers had fallen by almost 10% from the number in 1989. The death rate in Russia exceeds the birth rate by 70%.

·  Suicide rates among teenagers is on the rise, especially among boys. The number of suicides among boys aged 15-19 more than doubled between 1989 and 1997, going from 950 to almost 2,000, according to a 1999 UNICEF report.

·  In a 1998 poll, Russian high school seniors ranked prostitute and hired assassin above scientist, engineer and researcher as attractive career choices.

·  UNICEF estimates that in 1999, 5% of primary school aged children are not attending or enrolled in school. Real spending on education in Russia has fallen by 1/3. In response to the monetary crisis, the number of years of compulsory education has been reduced.

·  The general health of Russian children and adolescents has declined dramatically. According to the Russian Ministry of Public Health, in 1999 Russian children were smaller, sicker, and weaker, both physically and mentally. Indices of physical development such as weight, height, chest size and muscle strength all fell significantly over the course of the 1990s.

Capital Flight

·  When U.S. authorities disclosed that they were investigating the flow of billions of dollars of dubious origin from Russia through the Bank of New York, it brought international attention to the rapid acceleration of "capital flight" from Russia."Capital flight" refers to the outpouring of capital from a national economy into foreign markets without being reinvested into the domestic market. In the economically unstable aftermath of privatization, many Russians sought to stash their money away in safe havens, both legal and illegal. Although statistics are hard to verify, capital flight from Russia has been estimated to be as high as $1.5 billion a month, or $18 billion a year.

·  Sixty-five percent (USD 78 billion) of the USD 120 billion in Western funds and loans to Russia was transferred to private offshore accounts, according to a recent study conducted by former US National Security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski at the Center For Strategic and International Studies.

·  In March 2000, US Secretary of the Treasury Department, Lawrence Summers, announced that the total of illegal capital flight from Russia exceeded $100 billion.

·  The annual rate of capital flight reached a peak in 1998 at $25 billion.

·  Capital flight appeared to be decreasing by the beginning of 2000, possibly due to restrictions placed by the Central Bank on international trade activities. Some estimates for 1999 were as low as $15-16 billion. Although higher figures for 1999--$20 billion--were estimated by some Western economists, they agree that the capital outflow is slowing, though still substantial. The International Institute of International Finance predicts that capital flight for 2000 will be around $20 billion.

·  The substantial rate of capital flight may be somewhat balanced by an increase in foreign investment. The International Institute of International Finance claims that investors who fled the Russian market in 1998 may be returning. According to Business Week, total foreign investment grew from $ 411 million in the third quarter of 1998 to $ 613 million in the third quarter of 1999.

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