Fact Check: Putin Calls Ukraines 'Drug Addicts'

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In a televised speech on Feb. 24, Russian president Vladimir Putin said Ukraines are "terrorists" and "a gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis." For the purposes of this article, we'll deal with the drug addicts accusation.

As everyone knows, Russia has invaded its neighbor to the West and former Soviet-bloc nation, Ukraine. Putin's excuses for the attack include some of his snide comments made above.


Are Ukraines Drug Addicts?

According to the Ukrainian Monitoring and Medical Center on Drugs and Alcohol, based on a 2010 survey, "The most common substance was marijuana or hashish, used by about 8% of respondents. Ecstasy was consumed by about 2% of respondents. About 30 % of respondents reported that they personally knew people who used drugs."

By their next survey in 2014 that percentage had increased: "Around 12.4% of respondents reported ever having used marijuana or hashish... The major proportion of those who used marijuana or hashish were ‘experimental users,' i.e. those who had tried the substance once or twice in their life. This was particularly observed among students at vocational schools and universities. Around 7.3% of respondents had used marijuana or hashish in the past 12 months."

In 2006, NIDA's Nataliya Vlasova wrote about drug use in Ukraine:

"Substance abuse has been of epidemic proportions for the last 15 years in Ukraine. The problems’ growth is critical today... Drug addiction in the Ukraine has its peculiarities... Opium poppy straw extract continues to be the main drug of choice. Marijuana is growing in popularity among young people and use of synthetic drugs is appearing with increasing frequency. Hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin are too expensive for the average Ukrainian citizen, so their levels of abuse are still not significant.

"From the beginning of the 1990s the numbers of drug dependant grow annually by 10%-12%, 27% of them are adults, 60% are teenagers and 13% are children aged from 11 to 14 years. Drug addicts, aged 20-30 years, are becoming a prevailing category of users, and this is a distinguishing feature in recent years, which corresponds with the general European tendency."

"Poppy straw is mainly imported into Ukraine from Hungary supported by simpler cultivation of opium poppy that is used there."

The Report on Drug and Alcoholic Situation in Ukraine in 2020, explains the current drug laws there:

"The use of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances (other than in public) is not considered a criminal act. Illegal production, acquisition, storage, transportation, shipment of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances in small amounts without the purpose of sale is an adminstative offense and entails the imposition of a fine of 25 to 50 nontaxable minumum incomes or community service for a period of 20 to 60 hours, or an administrative arrest for up to 15 days." 

The section on "Drug Use Prevalance and Trends" does not include cannabis: "In Ukraine, the use of high-risk drugs is mainly associated with the injectable administration of home-made opiates (the opium extract solution street name is "shirka") and amphetamine-type stimulants. Intravenous drug use leads to the risk of HIV infection - hepatitis B and C, syphilis due to the use of one needle by several people."

Also: "In 2019, a sharp increase in cocaine use was detected."

And: "In 2019, 466 cases of deaths were recorded in Ukraine that related to the use of and lethal overdosing on PAS (psychoactive substances)."

Regarding harm reduction, the report states: "There are no such programs as: 'Programs for the issuance of naloxone at home.'"

Regarding treatment: "As of January 1, 2020, 62,579 people with mental and behavioral disorders due to the use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances were under supervision in the dispensary group in Ukraine, of which 3,682 persons were under supervision with a newly diagnosed diagnosis, 54% of whom were age category from 15 to 35  years." 

The "General Overview of Drug Markets" chapters includes the following sections: 



"The third most popular [drug] after cannabis and poppy straw is heroin, followed by methadone, amphetamine and cocaine. Cannabis is cultivated on the territory of Ukraine for domestic consumption both in the open ground and in greenhouses equipped with a system of drip irrigation, lighting and heating that makes it possible to harvest up to three times a year. Cannabis seeds are supplied from EU countries (Netherlands or Germany). For the first time in 2019, the fact of growing cannabis on a large scale for the purpose of further smuggling into the territory of the Republic of Poland was noted. Previously, mainly cannabis was grown for local consumption."


Opium is extracted from poppy straw. Those are poppy seeds at right. (Image via Wikipedia)

Poppy, Heroin and Methadone

"Poppy straw is mainly imported into Ukraine from Hungary supported by simpler cultivation of opium poppy that is used there in the pharmaceutical industry. Over the last few years, there has been a tendency to use the territory of Ukraine as a transhipment base for the transit of heroin of Afghan origin to the European Union. If heroin used to be transited by car, in the reporting period there was a tendency to use warehouses for its accumulation in Ukraine for further smuggling. Although large consignments of heroin continue to travel the Balkan route (Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey), international drug groups are changing and adapting new alternative routes extremely quickly. Recently, there has been a trend of shifting the 'Balkan route' due to the intensification of Turkish freight traffic in Ukraine, Moldova, Russia and Romania. Part of the flow of drugs from Iran and Turkey remains a strategic direction of 'Balkan drug trafficking' to Western Europe, mainly through Ukraine using road transport. Methadone is not only produced in Ukraine in underground laboratories, but also continues to come from Russia and Belarus. The spread of methadone is mainly carried out by members of the Gypsy diaspora."



"Cocaine enters Ukraine by sea, air and road, as well as by mail. By sea, cocaine enters primarily through the ports of Odessa region and is used both for local use and for transit to Western Europe by land. Cocaine enters Ukraine by air using drug couriers. According to available information, cocaine produced mainly in Bolivia and Peru is exported to European countries. Analysis of negative trends shows that Latin American criminal  groups are actively using Black Sea ports to regulate the supply of drugs through sea container traffic. Furthermore, couriers who use air transport are involved in the smuggling of cocaine. It should be noted that Ukraine and its citizens are used for the transit of cocaine by air from South America to Israel."


Amphetamine and Methamphetamine 

"Domestic demand for amphetamine and methamphetamine in general is satisfied by Ukraine’s illegal covert laboratories. Pseudoephedrine, one of the amphetamine precursors, is illegally imported from the territory of the Republic of Poland, Egypt and Jordan in the form of pharmaceutical that have it as a component. Basically, pseudoephedrine is not used to make amphetamine. The main precursor in Ukraine for the production of amphetamine is phenylnitropropene."


MDMA, PCP and More

"MDMA is imported from the European Union (Netherlands, Germany). PCP is imported from China by  mail, and there were a few instances recorded on manufacturing it in Ukraine in the underground laboratories. Particularly popular among drug users are new psychoactive compounds (e.g., smoking  mixtures, 'bath salts,' hallucinogenic mushrooms, etc.). These drugs enter the Ukrainian market mainly from China using international mail and express/currier shipments. The main reason for the attention to the territory of Ukraine, from the international criminal groups of drug trafficking, is the favorable geographical location (common border with the EU, access to the Black and Azov Seas), developed infrastructure of sea and air ports. The territory of Ukraine is used mainly as a transit zone for smuggling heroin from Asia, psychoactive compounds from China and cocaine from Latin America  and Europe."


The DEA's World Drug Report 2021 cites Ukraine as the "primary destination for heroin seized in Azerbaijan in both 2019 and 2020." It's the only reference to Ukraine in the report. No mention of Ukraine being a nation of drug addicts was made. That's just Putin's propaganda. 

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.