Belarus country overview


This summary was prepared within the framework of regional projects financed by the European Commission programme for the Technical Assistance to the Community of Independent States (TACIS) (last update: 2009). The contents of these summaries do not necessarily reflect the official opinions of the EMCDDA’s partners, the EU Member States or any institution or agency of the European Union or European Communities. Similarly, the content of this particular summary does not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the (Republic of) Belarus and should be seen as the product of the particular program of technical assistance, i.e., BUMAD (Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova against Drugs).

Key figures
  Year Belarus Source
Surface 2008 207 600 sq km National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus
Population 2007 9 689 700 Ministry of Health of the Republic of Belarus
GDP per capita in Purchasing Power Standards 2007 EUR 6 800 CIA World Factbook
Inequality of income distribution N/A N/A N/A
Unemployment rate November  2008 0.8 % National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus
Prison population rate 2006 426 World Prison Population List (seventh edition)
Household income or consumption by percentage share Quarter III, 2005 12.4 % National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus
Population below poverty line (in Belarus defined as ‘households with an average per capita of disposable resources below a subsistence level’) Quarter III, 2008 5.0 % National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus

The Republic of Belarus (Belarus) is located in the eastern part of Europe. It borders Poland in the west, Lithuania in the north-west, Latvia in the north, Russia in the east and north-east, and Ukraine in the south. The territory of Belarus covers 207 600 square kilometres.

As of 1 January 2008, official statistics report that the population of Belarus is approximately 9 687 700. Males constitute 46.7 % of the population (4 521 300), and females 53.3 % (5 168 400). 73.4 % (7 108 000) of the population is urban and 26.6 % (2 581 700) live in rural areas.

Belarus consists of six regions (‘oblasts’): Brest, Vitebsk, Gomel, Grodno, Minsk, and Mogilev, which include 118 administrative units called districts (‘rayon’) with the capital city, Minsk, designated a special status. Minsk is the largest city in Belarus (1 814 700), followed by Gomel, Mogilev, Vitebsk, and Grodno.

Drug use among the general population and young people

Until 2007, drug use among the general population had not been thoroughly studied in Belarus.

In 2007, with the support of the UNODC Regional Office for Russia and Belarus, a regional school survey on alcohol and other drug use was conducted using Russian translations of the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) questionnaire as a basis for research (Avsievich, 2008). The survey was organised by the Inspection for Juvenile Affairs of the Brest Regional Executive Committee and the NGO Kalegium, which is located in the town of Pinsk. The goal of the survey was to obtain reliable information on the use of various kinds of psychoactive substances among secondary school students studying in institutions in the Brest region. A representative sampling of the 21 683 secondary school students in the region included 1 585 teenagers born in 1991 who were attending secondary schools or vocational training institutions. According to the results of the survey, 86 % of respondents had tried alcohol at least once, and 16 % had regularly (over 40 times in their life) used alcohol. Cigarette (tobacco) smoking was another commonly tried psychoactive substance among respondents — 58.7 % of the students had tried tobacco smoking at least once and 16.1 % had smoked repeatedly. Altogether, 10.5 % of boys and 3.5 % of girls surveyed reported repeated use of an illegal drug. Among illegal drugs, marijuana dominated (6.8 % of all respondents reported trying), followed by ecstasy (1.3 %), LSD (0.9 %), and hallucinogenic mushrooms (0.4 %). 5.3% of respondents had used inhalants and 1.1 % of the respondents reported using tranquilizers without a doctor’s prescription at least once. The study suggests that only a few respondents had used these psychoactive substances regularly (e.g., only 11 respondents (0.7 %) had smoked marijuana 10 times or more).

In 2008, a nationwide representative survey of students born in 1992 (i.e. 15–16 years old) was planned in Belarus using ESPAD methodology. The Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction led the survey with financial support from the EU/UNDP Programme of Assistance for the Prevention of Drug Use and Drug Trafficking. Preparation work for the survey commenced in 2007 and resulted in the selection of a representative sample of secondary schools and grade levels along with the creation of a Belarusian version of a questionnaire that was fully compatible with the ESPAD 2007 Questionnaire. The survey was scheduled for administration in all regions of Belarus in spring 2008 in the framework of other surveys conducted by ESPAD-2008, including those in Moldova and the Balkan States. Belarus failed to take part in ESPAD-2008, however, due to the conservative position of the Ministry of Education.

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School-based prevention activities in Belarus are coordinated by the Ministry of Education. According to a decision by the Minister, primary prevention activities shall be conducted in educational establishments by distributing information on the negative consequences of drug use and publishing brochures and other informational materials with relevant content, including posters, booklets, etc. As part of this programme, lectures, workshops and seminars as well as other educational events are held for schoolchildren, university students and staff, along with newspaper and radio coverage of the topic.

A special course based on the principle of education as a means of achieving a healthy lifestyle — Prevention of Drug Abuse and AIDS — is being introduced into the curriculum of universities, law schools and teacher training colleges.

In addition to the Ministry of Education, officers of the inspections for juvenile affairs within the structure of the Ministry of Internal Affairs deal with primary drug prevention among children and teenagers.

International organisations substantially contribute to drug abuse prevention in Belarus. Since 2004 (to continue until 2009) the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has been supporting a joint UNDP/Ministry of Health project called HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment in Belarus. From 2004–07 approximately EUR 403 600 were allocated for the implementation of the project component Organizing continual informational and educational activities on HIV/AIDS prevention. The component aims mainly to train school counsellors, psychologists, health care and other specialists working with young people to effectively discuss problems of HIV, drug use and sexually transmitted infections with schoolchildren; to develop informational and educational materials and programmes that encourage young people to practice safe behaviour relevant to HIV prevention; to design and maintain an interactive Internet site for young people; and to hold mass informational and educational events that attract young people’s and the public’s attention to HIV prevention issues.

From 2003 to 2008, the UN Development Programme, with the financial support of the European Commission, has been implementing the Programme for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and the Fight against Drug Trafficking in Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova (BUMAD). From 2007–08, within the programme framework about EUR 46 700 were allocated for drug abuse prevention targeting schoolchildren and young people. The prevention activities include: informing young people and the general public on the risks and consequences associated with drug abuse; improving the qualification of specialists dealing with drug abuse prevention; and arranging inter-agency cooperation in the field of drug abuse prevention.

While implementing the project prevention activities, the BUMAD programme works to improve public awareness of drug abuse issues; train school counsellors and specialists in charge of school-based drug abuse prevention in applying interactive drug prevention methods; compile and publish an informational booklet and a drug abuse prevention guide for teachers and others working directly with children; and to develop recommendations as regards working out national strategies for drug abuse prevention.

In addition to state agencies, there are several NGOs involved in drug abuse prevention. Their activities include lectures and discussions held in educational institutions with former drug addicts involved as consultants and seminars for teachers on interactive methods and skits used in the context of school-based drug prevention activities.

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Problem drug use

In Belarus, problem drug use most commonly involves the injection of opiates or, to a lesser extent, of amphetamines and other psychoactive substances. Cocaine use is negligible so far and does not affect the overall picture of problem drug use in Belarus.

The Narcological Service of the Ministry of Health routinely registers known drug users and addicts. The Department for HIV/AIDS Prevention of the National Centre for Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health indirectly contributes to the register by reporting HIV-positive persons infected through intravenous drug use.

The Narcological Register (NR) consists of a Dispensary Narcological Register and a Prevention Narcological Register. The Dispensary Narcological Register includes persons diagnosed with an addiction according to ICD-10 criteria. The Prevention Narcological Register includes non-addicted patients who are suspected of using drugs (i.e., urine tested positive in strip tests). Reasons for including a person on the NR may be the result of an individual’s visit to a doctor; by a request from relatives, police, medical institutions, employers, educational institutions or military service commissions; or the result of inspections for juvenile offenders. All persons who test positive for drug use through a urinalysis, including those conducted at police stations, are then subject by law to observation and regular examination for drug addiction.

Drug addicts stay under medical observation (1) for three years, while non-addicted drug users stay under observation for one year. At the end of the observation period, the patient can be removed from the NR on the following grounds: recovery (‘prolonged remission’ in Belarusian medical terminology), imprisonment, change of place of residence, transfer to another medical institution (e.g., psychiatric clinic) or death. Observation may be extended indefinitely, however, for patients that continue using drugs. (Patients may also be transferred from the Prevention Narcological Register to the Dispensary Narcological Register and vice versa).

In 2008, the Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction conducted an estimation of the total number of the injecting drug users (IDUs) in Belarus in order to approximate the number of unknown drug users. The research methodology was based on a simplified ‘capture–recapture’ method using a two-way table. The first sample group consisted of 6 695 IDUs under observation on the NR as of the beginning of 2008. The second sample group consisted of 4 341 HIV-positive individuals who were identified as drug users by the Department for HIV/AIDS Prevention of the National Centre for Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health as of 1 January 2008. The number of individuals that were found in both registers (the overlap) was 381. According to the calculations, the estimate of intravenous drug users in Belarus at the end of 2007 was 76 281 persons [69 200–83 400], or approximately 1.3 % (1.2 –1.4 %) of the country’s population between the ages of 15 and 54 (Vinitskaya, 2008).

(1) Permanent medical control of the drug user or drug addict is defined as the obligation of a person to visit a narcologist once a month for a routine medical examination. If s/he fails to appear for an appointment the doctor may call law enforcement officials, who are then obliged to bring the user to the clinic. No monitoring system of this procedure, however, or a record of monthly examinations, exists in the Republic of Belarus.

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Treatment demand

In Belarus, the Narcological Service is a network of specialised outpatient and inpatient medical units in the healthcare system that provides treatment to alcohol and drug users. The Narcological Service in Belarus maintains the Narcological Register of known persons who are kept under observation owing to drug abuse and/or addiction. (For details on the register, see the Problem Drug Use section.)

According to the Ministry of Health, 10 891 people were registered as non-addicted drug users or addicts on the NR by 1 October 2008. Out of those 10 891 people, 5 398 (50.4 %) were included in the Dispensary Narcological Register and 5 445 were on the Prevention Register.

From January–September 2008, 1 174 drug users were removed from the Narcological Register and 427 (36.4 %) were removed from the Dispensary Register. 34.6 % of the patients released from the Dispensary Register recovered, 44.3 % were imprisoned, 9.6 % changed their place of residence, and 9.6 % died. The rest were transferred to another medical institution or were removed from the register due to other or unspecified reasons.

In the first nine months of 2008, narcological institutions in Belarus registered 631 new injecting drug users (IDUs). Notably, the share of the IDUs registered in 2008 made up 50.0 % of all those recorded in the register for their first time (1 263 patients). 32.8 % of the newly registered IDUs were listed on the Dispensary Register and the remainder were listed on the Prevention Register. Persons on the Prevention Register were added after several episodes of injecting drug use; however their addiction had not been diagnosed using ICD-10 criteria. Apart from the recorded cases of drug injection, 74 drug users (5.9 % of all cases revealed in 2008) admitted to having tried several drugs through different means of consumption, including injecting.

According to the Ministry of Health, 2 532 drug patients, or 26.1 per 100 000 people, received medical aid at narcological institutions in Belarus (the indicator closest to the EMCDDA All Treatment Demand) in 2007.

1 979 of all medically treated persons received medical treatment at narcological inpatient clinics, while 553 received medical assistance as day patients at outpatient clinics. 435 (17.2 %) of all drug patients treated in 2007 were females, while 190 (7.5 %) were minors (under the age of 18). 78.2 % of drug patients treated were diagnosed with a drug dependency syndrome (according to ICD-10). The remainder (21.8 %) were classified as ‘abusing narcotic drugs (toxic substances) with harmful consequences’.

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Drug-related infectious diseases

HIV-positive patients are only registered in Belarus when they have been diagnosed by the ELISA test two or three times. Following a thorough clinical examination, the Western blot test is required for final confirmation of the ELISA results. HIV tests are provided exclusively by recognized medical institutions. Official statistics, therefore, account for only a portion of HIV-positive persons (experts approximate that only one-sixth of HIV-positive persons in Belarus are registered).

The HIV situation in Belarus was relatively stable from 1987 to 1995, with only 113 cases registered by January 1996. During this period the primary means of transmitting HIV was through heterosexual intercourse, constituting 78 % of all cases. The situation changed in 1996 when the number of HIV-positive people registered suddenly rose to 1134. The Department for HIV/AIDS Prevention (2001) cited drug abuse as the cause for the rapid increase. The first outbreak of HIV-infection in the country was registered in the town of Svetlogorsk, where 90 % of all identified cases were intravenous drug users (United Nations Development Programme, 2004–06).

According to data provided by the Department for HIV/AIDS Prevention of the National Centre for Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health, from 1987 to 1 July 2008, 9 194 cases of HIV-infection were officially registered (94.9 cases per 100 000 inhabitants) (UNAIDS in Belarus, 2008).

Belarus is now at the ‘initial stage’, according to WHO criteria, of an HIV/AIDS outbreak. In the Gomel region, however, where the spread of HIV-infection is significantly higher (330.3 cases per 100 000 inhabitants), the situation can be characterised as in the ‘concentrated stage’. Altogether, 4 851 (52.8 % of all known cases in Belarus) were registered in the Gomel region as of 1 July 2008 and 2 212 (24.1 % of all cases) of these were registered in the town of Svetlogorsk.

Women constitute 35.5 % of all known HIV-positive cases in Belarus. Young people aged 15–29 make up the majority of HIV-infected patients (70.3 % of the total number). During the last decade, the ratio of young people aged 15–19 among all known HIV-positive persons decreased from 24.5 % in 1996 to 3.9 % in 2007. During the first six months of 2008, only five cases of HIV infection were registered among young people aged 15–19.

Intravenous drug users constitute the majority of the 9 194 registered cases. As of 1 July 2008, 5 344 of registered HIV-positive patients (58.1 %) had a history of drug use.

During the first six months of 2008 there were 457 newly registered cases of HIV infection, as compared to 544 newly registered for the same period (the first six months of 2007). The share of heterosexually transmitted infections has been increasing every year (from 7 % in 1996 to 63.4 % in 2006, 66.8 % in 2007, and 72.6 % in 2008).

By 1 July 2008, a total of 1 378 deaths was recorded across the country among people living with HIV; 994 (72.1 %) of the deceased were drug users (UNAIDS in Belarus, 2008).

Seroprevalence studies were conducted among injection drug users in Belarus in 2006 by the Department for HIV/AIDS Prevention of the National Centre for Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health (Meleshko 2008). The sample consisted of 2 492 IDUs from 18 study sites, including the capital and regional centres. Among the IDUs examined, 16.7 % ± 0.7 [CI=95 %] were found to be HIV-positive.

In 2007, no studies were conducted on the prevalence of blood-borne infectious diseases among IDUs and other risk groups; however a study was conducted at the end of 2008.

Viral hepatitis: local state clinics and infectious disease hospitals in Belarus register persons infected with viral hepatitis and provide them with medical assistance and consultation. Regional departments of the National Centre for Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health of the Ministry of Health gather information related to the spread of hepatitis from region to region and conduct epidemiological surveillance of infection prevalence in Belarus. Medical institutions do not, however, keep record of hepatitis carriers and patients who use drugs, as this is not yet required by the state for statistical reporting.

When drug users are put on the Belarus Narcological Register they undergo a compulsory test for HIV, antiHCV and HBsAg, irrespective of the method of drug consumption. From 2005–07, narcological institutions in Belarus registered 395 drug users infected with HСV and HВV, combinations of these infections or with HIV. This constitutes 6.4 % of all registered over these years (a total of 6 182 persons). 305 of these cases (77.2 %) used drugs intravenously and 224 (56.7 %) were users of opioid-based drugs. The most commonly found infecting agent was viral hepatitis C (269 cases — 68.1 %), while the least common was viral hepatitis В (21 cases — 5.3 %). Registered drug users also showed cases of combined infections: HIV and HСV (41 cases — 10.4 %); HIV and HВV (1 case — 0.3 %); and HСV and HВV (18 cases — 4.6 %). Two registered drug users were carriers of three infections (HIV, HСV and HВV). In the remaining cases, registration cards did not indicate the type of hepatitis (Lelevich, 2008).

The Department for HIV/AIDS Prevention of the National Centre for Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health (Meleshko, 2008) conducted seroprevalence studies among injection drug users in Belarus in 2006. Among the IDUs studied, 13.3 % ± 0.7 [CI=95 %] were found HCV-positive, and 39.0 % ± 0.8 were found HBV-positive. No seroprevalence studies were conducted for IDUs in Belarus in 2007.

During the first nine months of 2008, 87 cases of viral hepatitis C and B were reported among 1 263 newly registered drug users. HCV cases accounted for a vast majority (85 in total) with 25.8 % patients co-infected with HIV and HBV. Only 2 newly registered drug users were infected with HBV.

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Drug-related deaths

The principal source of information in Belarus on mortality of drug users is data on deceased patients who from 2004–08 were registered and subsequently removed from the NR. Statistical data on drug-related deaths were collected in accordance with ICD-10 statistical classification. Causes of death were assessed by physicians present at the time of death, doctors who had treated these patients, and by pathologists or forensic medical experts.

In 2007, 91 deaths were recorded among registered drug users, which constitute 8.5 per 1 000 of all persons registered by narcological institutions in Belarus (10 647 persons total). Over the course of the first nine months of 2008 there were 49 cases reported of narcological patients’ deregistration as a result of death. From 2004–08 there were a total of 479 deaths reported among registered drug users. 79.9 % of the deceased were diagnosed with dependency syndrome (i.e. on the Dispensary Register), and 20.1 % were listed on the Prevention Narcological Register.

Among the 49 drug users who died in 2008, 26 (53.1 %) were in between the ages of 25 and 34. 77.6 % of the deceased persons were males, 22.4 % females. 83.6 % were put on the Dispensary Register for patients diagnosed with dependence syndrome. The remaining portion was determined not drug-dependent. 61.2 % were users of injected opiates.

From 2004–08, 66 deceased drug users on the registry (13.8 % of deceased) died due to HIV-related complications. Apart from the consequences of blood-borne infections, somatic and infectious diseases (41.1%) were the main causes of death among registered drug users, including liver diseases (cirrhosis, toxic hepatitis), cardiovascular pathology, pulmonary tuberculosis, gastrointestinal diseases, results of trauma and other pathologies. 50 of the deceased drug users (10.4 %) died due to overdoses and poisonings by opiates (opium, heroine, methadone) and alcohol. 7.5 % cases were suicides. Accidents accounted for 16.1 %. Murders constituted 2.3 %, while 8.8 % of deaths occurred due to reasons unknown.

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Treatment responses

According to data from the Ministry of Health, there are presently 17 narcological dispensaries and 678 beds in day care inpatient facilities available in Belarus (for patients with both alcohol- and non-alcohol-related disorders).

Altogether, 323 narcologists (physicians with special training in addiction treatment) were working in Belarus by the end of 2007. Among them, 49 psychiatrists and narcologists specialised in work with teenage patients.

In 2007, the number of available hospital beds increased by 6.8 % (1 392, as compared to 1 303 hospital beds available in 2006) and amounted to 1.4 hospital beds per 10 000 people. Health care system in Belarus also provided opportunities for anonymous treatment of drug users.

By law, the treatment and rehabilitation of drug users in Belarus will typically include the following:

  • active development of the drug addict’s motivation to undergo treatment;
  • detoxification (a complex of physical therapy combined with physical exercise and continuous care for the patient for 2–3 weeks);
  • one to three weeks of medical treatment. This practice in addiction treatment is not yet fully in line with UN standards and WHO recommendations on complex drug treatment, mostly owing to its insufficient availability of long-term re-socialisation and after-care programmes.

Substitution treatment for users of opioids became available in Belarus only in September 2007, when a pilot methadone substitution therapy project was started for 33 patients at the Gomel Narcological Clinic. As of April 2008, methadone therapy was also being implemented at the Minsk City Narcological Clinic. From the beginning of the pilot project until April 2008, methadone treatment was provided to 43 patients altogether in Belarus.

Early in 2008, there were 11 rehabilitation centres in Belarus dealing with the rehabilitation and re-socialisation of drug patients. Nine of these were established by various NGOs and Christian missions. Since September 2007, rehabilitation programmes have become available in two state narcological clinics located in Minsk and Grodno. Normally, narcological dispensaries have a list of non-governmental rehabilitation centres which they often recommend to drug users who have completed detoxification. A typical rehabilitation centre in Belarus provides both free and paid treatment. In three centres, rehabilitation is based on the twelve-step programme.

As of the beginning of 2008, no data are available on patients who completed rehabilitation in non-governmental centres.

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Harm reduction responses

From 2006–07, Belarusian NGOs conducted activities to prevent the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users within the framework of the Project for Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS in Belarus financed by the Global Fund. The target groups included:

  • drug users and the people to whom they are close (immediate family, relatives, friends);
  • staff of the Centres for Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health, narcological dispensaries (drug abuse clinics), regional hospitals and other medical staff working with drug users;
  • staff of NGOs working in HIV/AIDS prevention;
  • former drug users active in harm reduction services;
  • law enforcement officers, social service workers and staff of other institutions dealing with drug users;
  • the general public.

In 2004, the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) approved a two-year grant to Belarus on HIV/AIDS totalling USD 6 818 796. In November 2006, GFATM approved Phase 2 funding of the grant for three years with a total funding of USD 9 945 034. The Harm Reduction programme is provided through Component 1, Prevention of HIV Infection among Injecting Drug Users (IDUs), and is being implemented by Positive Movement, a Belarusian NGO.

From 2005–07, GFATM funding was provided to 52 anonymous counselling points (ACP) in Belarus which provided a wide range of preventive measures for intravenous drug users (Zhdanovskaya, 2008). By April 2008, they had reached 22 437 IDUs, 1 696 of whom turned to ACPs for the first time in 2008. The activities of the ACPs include needle exchange; distributing condoms, sterile liquids and cotton filters; and publishing and distributing booklets and brochures providing essential information on harm reduction and safer sexual behaviour (Zhdanovskaya, 2008).

During the first quarter of 2008, 13 598 copies of information and educational materials published within the project were disseminated among ACP clients. (104 251 copies of printed materials have been distributed since 2005.) 2 booklets – Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections and Drugs and Law – were developed and published in 2006. From the beginning of 2005 to April 2008, ACP staff and other social workers distributed 2 567 028 syringes and 1 668 809 condoms. At the same time 8 095 IDU clients were referred to medical institutions for treatment because of drug-related pathology and 469 were sent for detoxification and rehabilitation. 2 486 individuals were sent to be tested for viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases and 2 560 were tested for HIV. In total, 57 539 consultations were provided at the ACPs from 2005–08, with an average of 2.6 consultations per client.

Over the course of the three years that the project has been administered, the number of drug users belonging to older age groups has increased. Presently 62.2 % of ACPs’ clients are over the age of 25.

In 2006, 121 outreach workers and 213 specialists were trained on medical, psychological and social aspects of IDU counselling (229 outreach workers and 351 counsellors total have been trained since the start of the grant).

To enhance the efficiency of ACPs’ work and to introduce the software for their monitoring, four workshops were held. A total of 50 ACP staff members were trained in the use of this software. Four roundtable discussions aimed at developing partner relationships between ACP staff and staff of the Department of Counter Narcotics and Trafficking in Human Beings of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was also held over this period.

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Drug markets and drug-law offences

The day-to-day responsibility for preventing and disrupting illegal drug trafficking is borne by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Security Committee (KGB), the State Border Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office.

Additionally, the following agencies take part in concerted efforts to stem the market for illegal drugs: Drug Control and Human Trafficking Department (established as a separate division within the police force in 1996); Cross-border Organised Crime Unit (established within the search and surveillance division of the State Border Committee); Customs Office.

The Collegium of the Ministry of Health is a specialised body within the national system that regulates and controls legal transactions of controlled substances. The Council of Ministers Resolution of 20 October 2003, No 1378, authorises the Collegium to issue, extend, suspend or cancel licences to engage in legal transactions of controlled substances.

Poppy plants and marijuana are grown in Belarus and some synthetic drugs are produced in the country, however their volumes are insignificant for export and are mostly used for local consumption. At the same time, Belarus is a significant transit country and a part of the Old and New Silk Route for trafficking heroin from the Middle East to Europe. A fairly large number of other drug trafficking routes pass through the territory of Belarus due to the country’s geographic location. Belarus is gradually turning though from a transit country to a demand country.

Seized drugs in the year 2008: poppy straw 423.9 kg (276.8 kg in 2007), amphetamines 2.99 kg (5.82 kg in 2007), hashish 1.2 kg (26.62 kg in 2007), heroin 0.695 kg (3.12 kg in 2007), marijuana 144 kg (139 kg in 2007), illegal methadone 2.7 kg (2.7 kg in 2007), cocaine 0.337 kg (0.01 kg in 2007), 3-methyl-phentanyl 0 (0.012 kg in 2007). All together law enforcement agencies seized over 724 kg of drugs and precursors in 2008.

In 2007, 2 008 individuals were convicted for the Illegal manufacture, processing, purchase, possession, transportation and sending of drugs or precursors without the intent to sell (paragraph 1 of Article 328 of the Criminal Code; see section below). 701 (35 %) of these received a prison sentence. The proportion of persons convicted under the above-mentioned paragraph constituted 72 % (in both 2004 and in 2007) of the total number of persons convicted for all types of drug-related crimes.

729 individuals were convicted for the illegal manufacture, processing, purchase, possession, transportation and sending of drugs or precursors with the intent to sell (paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of Article 328 of the Criminal Code; see section below). 706 (97 %) of these received a prison sentence.

The proportion of persons convicted under paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of Article 328 made up 26 % (both in 2004 and 2007) of the total number of persons convicted for all types of drug-related crimes.

The share of persons convicted for other types of drug-related crimes (promotion of drugs, pharmaceutical drug theft and operation of drug dens or crack houses) remained minimal and constituted 2 % of the total in 2004 and 2007.

The number of persons convicted for drug-related crime subjected to compulsory treatment for drug addiction was 638 in 2007 (773 in 2004).

According to information provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the number of persons convicted for drug-related crimes totalled 2 555 in 2008 compared to 2 782 in 2007.

The availability of information through the Internet on methods of drugs production contributes to the growth of abuse and crime. Eight labs, producing amphetamine (7) and illegal methadone (1), were destroyed in Belarus in 2007.

Among the recent trends should be mentioned the production of extracted opium from poppy seeds used for culinary purposes. This presents a real problem for police as poppy seeds used for baking are legally sold in any quantity at stores and markets.

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National drug laws

It is against the law in Belarus to steal pharmaceutical drugs; produce and process illegal drugs; purchase and possess illegal drugs (irrespective of the purpose of possession); traffic drugs for sale or for other purposes; plant or cultivate illicit drug-containing plants to sell or to produce a drug; violate the rules of working with state-controlled drugs that lead to their loss or misappropriation; promote the use of illegal drugs and provide a location for their use.

In Belarus, the Criminal Code includes the following paragraphs on narcotics:

  • Article 327 of the Criminal Code — Theft of pharmaceutical drugs, psychoactive substances and precursors.
  • Article 328 of the Criminal Code — § 1. Illegal manufacture, processing, purchase, possession, transportation and distribution of drugs or precursors without the intent to sell. § 2: Illegal manufacture, processing, purchase, possession, transportation and distribution of drugs or precursors with the intent to sell, or the sale of drugs or precursors. § 3: Activities specified in paragraph 2 if committed by a group of individuals; by an official abusing his official position; by a repeat offender; in relation to large quantities of drugs; or the sale of drugs and precursors on the territory of educational or correctional institutions, arrest houses, detention areas or in places where sporting, cultural and other events are held. § 4: Activities specified in paragraphs 2 and 3 if committed by an organised group.
  • Article 330 of the Criminal Code — Violation of rules for the handling of narcotic drugs or psychoactive substances.
  • Article 331 of the Criminal Code — Promoting the use of drugs among others.
  • Article 332 of the Criminal Code — Organising or operation of drug dens.

In 2003, the Criminal Code was amended to increase criminal responsibility for drug-related crimes. Most of these were subsequently characterised as serious or very serious. Punishment varies from a six-month to a 15-year prison sentence with or without confiscation of property. If a crime was committed by a person while intoxicated (drug-impaired) the punishment will be more severe. If a crime was committed by a drug addict the courts may sentence him/her to imprisonment with mandatory treatment while in prison.

The List of Nationally Controlled Narcotic Drugs, Psychoactive Substances and their Precursors was introduced in the Republic of Belarus in 2003. According to the List, cannabinoids (marijuana, hashish) fall under the heading of Herbal Drugs and their distribution is punishable by law.

In 2007, the Ministry of Health amended the List with a Resolution. Amineptine was added to the Psychoactive Substances Section and the Herbal Drugs Section was supplemented with information on ways to obtain opium extract from seeds of the papaver family of plants.

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National drug strategy

Between 2001 and 2005, under Resolution No 25 dated 10 January 2001 of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus, the State Programme of Comprehensive Responses to Abuse and Illegal Trafficking in Drugs and Psychoactive Substances for 2001–05 was implemented in Belarus.

At present, the 2006–10 State Programme to Enhance the Fight against Crime is being implemented within joint interstate programmes with CIS members and the Belarus/Russia Allied State Programme.

The 2007–10 National Programme of Demographic Security in the Republic of Belarus was approved by 26 March 2007, Presidential Edict No.135 and the 2006-10 State Programme of National Responses to Prevent and Overcome Alcoholism approved on 27 April 2006, by the Council of Ministers’ Decision No 556 also include certain aspects of drug abuse prevention.

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Coordination mechanism in the field of drugs

The Interagency Commission on Crime, Corruption and Drugs under the Security Council was established by a Presidential Edict in 1995 to coordinate the work of law enforcement agencies at policy level. The Commission, headed by the Prosecutor General, includes leaders of the key ministries (the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Health, Education, Justice, Economy and others), as well as of other national public authorities, including the Chairman of the Supreme Court and the Chairman of the Supreme Economic Court. The President of Belarus and the Security Council are regularly briefed on current developments in the drug situation. The need for a national response strategy development and an assessment of existing state programmes has been at the core of the Commission’s work since its inception.

In March 2008 a meeting of the Interagency Commission was held at which the current drug situation following the 2006–10 State Programme to Enhance the Fight against Crime was assessed. The status of the recently established National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction was also discussed and the decision was made to found the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction at Grodno Medical University and grant it the status of a state agency. The proposals of the Commission are currently under review at the Ministry of Economy.

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Avsievich, N., Danilova, S., Krasko, N., Golovach, T., Seredich, N. (2008), Outcomes of school study using ESPAD methodology conducted in 2007 among students of Brest Oblast, Brest.

Lelevich, V. V., Vinitskaya, H. (2008), ‘Viral hepatitis prevalence among drug users in the Republic of Belarus’, Actual Problems of Hepatology: 7th International Symposium of Hepatologists of Belarus, Vitebsk.

UNAIDS in Belarus (2008), Epidemic situation in Belarus. Statistic information as of 1 July 2008, Minsk.

United Nations Development Programme (2004–06) HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment in Belarus UNDP Project. Minsk, Ministry of Health.

Vinitskaya, H., Razvodovsky, Yu., Lelevich, V. (2008), ‘On estimation of psychoactive drug use prevalence in the Republic of Belarus’, Issues on the Organisation and Informatization of the Health Care System, 4, pp. 46–49.

Zhdanovskaya, O., Trukhan, L. (2008), Implementation of the Project Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS in the Republic of Belarus 2005–07. Component 1. Prevention of HIV prevalence among injecting drug users (IDUs). Minsk.

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