[Notice: The production, marketing and transfer of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is a criminal offense, punishable by law.
(see Articles 228-231 of the Russian Criminal Code)] Having eliminated all competitors, Hydra, the largest drug syndicate in the world, continues to grow rapidly. The darknet drug trafficking thrives in all major cities and regional centers of Russia. Dropmen have become the main workforce of the shadow business. An entire army of couriers leave dead dropswith drugs pre-packed for the customers. [OUTSIDE THE LAW
True Stories of Russian Drug Dealers] The press has developed a stereotypical image of a dropman. A high school student from a low-income family gets involved in a dangerous business for the sake of easy money. But in fact, people from different social strata become dropmen, and they choose this job for various reasons. But they all have one thing in common — an almost guaranteed prison term. According to official figures, every seventh sentence in Russia is passed under Article 228 of the Criminal Code. [2018
Almost 89,000 people have been convicted under all paragraphs of Article 228 of the Russian Criminal Code 19,000 of them were convicted for drug trafficking The remaining 69 thousand people were convicted for the acquisition and possession of drugs without the intention of selling them] 25% of all prisoners have been convicted under drug-related articles. Due to the huge number of criminal cases under Article 228, it has long been called [“the people’s article”]. But the worst thing is that most of the convicted are no longer able to return to normal life after their release from prison. [Vladimir Kolokoltsev: ”More than 250 000 people are released from places of detention annually. The criminal activity of this contingent shows virtually no decline”] More than half of all convicted drug addicts are young people from 18 to 35 years old. Almost all of them are dropmen. Recruiters take advantage of the fact that young people are usually poorly versed in legal technicalities. But couriers caught with pre-packed drops are almost guaranteed to receive a prison term for the sale of drugs in a large quantity. [Article 228.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, concerning the illegal sale and production of drugs, provides for up to 20 YEARS of imprisonment] More than 90% of decisions in drug-related criminal cases are made under Articles 228 and 228.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Statistics show that drug users receive prison sentences more often than drug dealers. At the same time, only about 3% of convicts are placed under involuntary treatment. It seems that the security forces are more interested in convicting drug addicts, rather than helping them. For schoolchildren and students, the main motivation for working as dropmen is a chance to earn some serious cash. It is the desire to make easy money that gets them caught up in the recruiters’ web. – If we take, for example, teenagers from low-income families, it is clear that they just want to have their own money. But if we take well-off families, it’s the ambitious parents who require some kind of financial return from their kids. The second reason is related to our culture which gives young people a clear message: “If you don’t make money, you are nothing”. It doesn’t matter what your qualities are, what matters is how you monetize them. There is absolutely no morality in this worldview – forget about norms or rules. And teens, of course, have many opportunities. So when they start earning good money working as dropmen, it increases their self-esteem. Another incentive for newbie dropmen is adrenaline. Some young people would do anything for a thrill. Leonid [24, marketer] had no financial problems or life’s challenges. But about a year ago, he saw a stencil on Lyusinovskaya Street in the center of Moscow and decided to find out what it feels like to be a drug courier. – I’ve collected drops for myself several times before. I didn’t need money. My parents have a business of their own. I have a steady job. I just probably needed some excitement in my life. I hid my first batch of drops at ten locations — somewhere in the park, at the gas station and in the parking lot. When I went to pick up drops for myself, I wasn’t afraid to get caught, no. But when I began to distribute them, I started getting paranoid. I feared I’d get busted. I’ve worked as a dropman for three months. Quit right after that incident when the cops stopped my car. That morning I was driving to my office, using a car-sharing service. The police stopped me near the Kursky railway terminal. Turned out it was some special unit. Thankfully, the car was empty. But, still it scared the shit out of me. They frisked me and the car. They’ve searched everywhere and found nothing. But I still had violated the traffic laws by crossing a double line. I lost my driver’s license but I didn’t complain. I think I got off easy. I could end up in prison. Fortunately for him, Leonid managed to stop in time. But many other dropmen were put behind bars because of their risky business. In 2014, Eleanor S. was sentenced in St. Petersburg to 6 years in a colony of strict regime under the article concerning the distribution of drugs on an especially large scale. – I got stopped in my own car. Naturally, a very large batch of drugs was seized. And so I was convicted for distribution… – Distribution through drops? – Yes, the dead drop system. It is believed that people associated with sports should not use drugs. And Eleanor has been avoiding illegal substances — until a certain point… – I got in touch with people who offered me to earn some money. So I could have drugs for personal use and also make money distributing them… I had enough money to live comfortably and indulge my whims. Eleanor’s two daughters are waiting for her at home. They are now being raised by their father. – I really wanted to be a part of their lives — they’re teenagers now. Well… I strive to get back home as soon as possible. I really do. But after release from prison, the stigma of a criminal and a former drug addict can cut off a person from a normal life. The mandatory registration of drug addicts often entails dire consequences. Drug-dependent prisoners get a chance to start over in specialized treatment colonies. Nikolai, a native of Sakhalin, is serving his term in one of them. In 2014, he was sentenced to 7 years of strict regime for selling drugs as a member of an organized crime group. – It turned out that my co-defendant contacted me while being monitored by the police. Because he knew that I would buy drugs from his girlfriend. After the sentencing, Nikolai voluntarily wrote a request for transfer to Mordovia in order to undergo a course of treatment for drug addiction. – Firstly, we have occupational therapy. Secondly, I’ve been attending group sessions with a counselor for two years. Drug abuse specialists visit us… We have conversations… We study and keep journals, registering our mental state… Nikolai’s lawyer submitted an application for early release. The chances are good as no violations have been reported over the past five years. After his rehabilitation course, Nikolai’s opinion on drugs is strictly negative. – It’s better to stay away from them… Even if you’ve tried them once, it’s better to leave it at that before you gеt hooked. On July 11, 2019, a record turnout of web users was registered in the Russian segment of the darknet. [From January to June 2019, the demand for drugs in the largest darknet market Hydra has increased from 5 to 10 times in almost all regions of the country] In one day, 600 thousand people visited online platforms in search of illegal products and services. This number is comparable with the population of a large city, such as Kemerovo or Khabarovsk. The production and sale of illegal substances in the Russian Federation constitute a problem of immense proportions. Every day in Russia more than 13 thousand drops are distributed, containing drugs that cost about [$3.5 million]. This means that thousands of young people will soon get long prison sentences for drug trafficking. And hundreds of thousands of Russians will get hooked on illegal substances, losing their hopes, ambitions and prospects. How will the law enforcement agencies react to this situation? And what does the future hold for people whose lives have been destroyed by drugs? While we await the answers, the drug business only gets stronger.