18 Dec 2019 15:46

UNDP ready to answer Russia's questions about methadone seized in Vnukovo

DUSHANBE. Dec 18 (Interfax) - Officers of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) are in touch with Russian authorities and are ready to answer any questions pertaining to the seizure at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport of a methadone shipment en route from Germany to Tajikistan, the UNDP office in Dushanbe said in a statement seen by Interfax on Wednesday.

"The shipment was detained in Moscow because of faulty marking. The United Nations Development Program is liaising with Russian authorities in order to solve the problem. It has expressed readiness to answer any questions," the statement said.

"The $79,310 shipment of methadone was sent within the framework of the HIV/AIDS prevention program in Tajikistan. This medication is a vital part of substitution therapy for drug-addicted persons," the statement said.

Deputy Director of the Tajik Health Ministry's Narcotics Abuse Center Rustam Sharipov told Interfax that the program, which is being carried out in the republic with the support of the UNDP Global Fund, aims to prevent the spread of HIV among drug addicts.

The number of HIV-positive drug addicts in Tajikistan has decreased from 60% to 12% since 2016, Sharipov said.

According to official reports, almost 7,000 residents of Tajikistan were registered as drug addicts as of late 2018. The Tajik Health Ministry expects to cut their number to 5,600 by the end of 2019.

The Russian Federal Customs Service said on Tuesday that a large batch of undeclared methadone en route from Germany to Tajikistan was detained in Moscow's Vnukovo Airport in early December.

The drug's dry weight was estimated at over 1,200 tonnes (1,235 kilograms). A gram of methadone costs from 4,000 to 5,000 rubles on the black market. The total cost of the shipment could amount to from 5.8 billion to 6 billion rubles.