hoto Essay: Russian Border Guards Battle Heroin on the Afghan-Tajik Border
This is not the end of a war. It is the second largest heroin seizure ever made at this border, as far as the Russian military officer can recall - 117 kilos of pure heroin, hidden in Pakistani "tea bags," as described in Urdu on the packages. The smugglers almost certainly meant to bring the heroin to the West, especially Europe. Ninety percent of the heroin purchased in Europe comes from Afghanistan, and the street value for the quantity Kondrachov has seized is five million dollars.
Around the kerosene-soaked furnace, nobody says a word on the origin of the traffickers. The young Russian recruits have learned to keep their mouths shut. Last night's operation ended up bloody: the troops killed five out of 12 traffickers and threw the bodies straight into the Panj river, which separates the two countries. In Moskovsky, soldiers say that a dead trafficker is better than an arrested one. Why? "We have to surrender all prisoners to the Tajik border guards," complains Kondrachov. "We totally lose track of them."
Control is Kondrachov's main obsession. It is also the reason why Russia continues to sacrifice human lives to guard a border that is not its own. Shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin offered to station as many as 11,000 men along the Tajik border. Today, the agreement still stands, benefiting Tajikistan, which is too poor to monitor its porous border on its own. It also benefits Russia, which fears any instability in the region. It especially fears the spectre of a new wave of Muslim fundamentalism.