Russian mafia trades weapons for Afghan poppies


The heroin flooding Britain's streets is threatening the lives of UK troops in Afghanistan, an Independent investigation can reveal.

Russian gangsters who smuggle drugs into Britain are buying cheap heroin from Afghanistan and paying for it with guns. Smugglers told The Independent how Russian arms dealers meet Taliban drug lords at a bazaar near the old Afghan-Soviet border, deep in Tajikistan's desert. The bazaar exists solely to trade Afghan drugs for Russian guns – and sometimes a bit of sex on the side.

The drugs are destined for Britain's streets. The guns go straight to the Taliban front line. The weapons on sale include machine guns, sniper rifles and anti-aircraft weapons like the ones used in the attempt to assassinate the Afghan President Hamid Karzai last weekend.

"We never sell the drugs for money," boasted one of the smugglers. "We exchange them for ammunition and Kalashnikovs."

The drugs come mostly from Helmand, where most of Britain's 7,800 troops are based. The opium grown there is turned into heroin at factories inside Afghanistan, sold into Tajikistan and smuggled to Europe. The guns are broken down into parts, smuggled back into Afghanistan and delivered to the Taliban. One kilogram of heroin can buy about 30 AK-47 assault rifles at the bazaar.

Nato claims the Taliban get between 40 and 60 per cent of their income from drugs. The smugglers' claims suggest the real cost could be far higher.


This should give the Brits a greater incentive to smash the poppy production. They have been ignoring it for the most part since they were stationed in Helmand. Their relations with Russia have deteriorated to the point that it is unlikely that they will get any kind of cooperation in stopping the trade, but the US and the UN should put pressure on Russia to stop the trafficking.

It is in Russia's interest to stop the trade in arms and drugs.


  1. That sounds like part of the Red Mafia under the Mogilevich organization as he is cited as having the Golden Triangle system including a cargo airline operating from the 'stans to China. Part of the operations are now under Group DF, although that concentrates more on gas/oil/commerce and real estate. Part of the Depripaska organization could also be out there, but they have not been cited with the transport capabilities... Mogilevich had more than enough time to work with Bout and secure a position with the Hekmatyar organization in the 1990's, and there are a very few and scant indications of that going on. This, however, looks to bolster those as the Talibe look to Hekmatyar's capabilities more and more as he has a good network spanning the area for smuggling. For all the recent talk of Mehsud he is a relative newcomer to the terror business, while Hekmatyar goes back to the '70s.

    This has been one of the reasons that going after the Taliban doesn't include *just* the Taliban: they are part of the larger and inter-connected set of organizations ranging from southern Kashmir to China to Georgia. That has been a working premise of mine - that the Red Mafia would become the default supplier for the Talibe, Hizb-i-Islami, LeT, LeJ, etc. as they are the only ones with transport, connections and cash, along with money laundering capability to do this on a massive scale.


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