Ukrainian war forces change drug smuggling route, EU body warns

Cloth bags of cocaine are seen during a Portuguese and Spanish police news conference showcasing the 5.2 tonnes of cocaine seized in the Atlantic Ocean, in Almada, Portugal October 18, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes /File Photo

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LISBON, June 14 (Reuters) – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is changing routes for smuggling illegal drugs into Europe, the EU’s drugs agency warned on Tuesday.

European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) director Alexis Goosdeel said the war had already had a “direct impact” on one of the heroin trafficking routes from Afghanistan that passed through Ukraine and other neighboring countries.

“Drug traffickers have no interest in continuing to use this route,” he told an online press conference, adding that there were already signs of increased trafficking at borders. between Turkey and Bulgaria and Turkey and Greece.

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Goosdeel said the conflict was also forcing smugglers using the Black Sea to opt for other routes, as some ports were now out of reach. He said it was likely traffic would increase through the Greek islands and the southern Mediterranean.

In its annual report, the Lisbon-based EMCDDA also said that many people who suffered “severe psychological stress” during the conflict could become more vulnerable to drug addiction problems, and that health services in European countries , particularly those bordering Ukraine, were likely to become more strained as drug users fleeing conflict need support.

“Continuity of treatment, language services and the provision of housing and social support will likely be essential requirements,” he said, adding that even those who were not drug users were at risk. .

The agency also said the difficult financial situation in Afghanistan, which has been under Taliban control since August, could make drug revenues a bigger source of income and lead to an increase in heroin trafficking to Europe.

He said that despite the ban on the production, sale and trafficking of illicit drugs, poppy cultivation appeared to continue in Afghanistan.

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Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Toby Chopra and Alison Williams

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