Monday, July 6, 2009
CHELYABINSK, Russia — Young men with sores on their arms shuffled up the stairs of a dark, underground shopping arcade and into the daylight to plop dingy wads of rubles into the drug dealers’ hands. The dealers casually reached into their pockets or plastic shopping bags and handed over tablets of synthetic morphine, a type also used as a horse tranquilizer, and paper packets that appeared to contain heroin.
Across the street in this gray, post-Soviet industrial town, two Russian policemen sat in a faded wooden booth, and a couple more sat in a police truck outside. They didn’t seem the least bit interested.
A police officer walked by but didn’t interrupt the transaction. Asked whether he was worried, one of the dealers, a young man with a white driving cap tipped down over his eyes, leaned back against a railing and giggled.
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In Miass, a small town west of Chelyabinsk near the foothills of the Ural Mountains, Elena Shapkovskaya wasn’t laughing. She works at the No. 40 pharmacy and often has to call the police when heroin addicts crowd the shop and begin shooting up in plain view.
“Sometimes instead of calling the police, we call an ambulance, because they’re lying on the floor,” Shapkovskaya said, looking down at the tile floor beneath her feet.
Drugs have become yet another scourge of post-communist Russia, with millions addicted to heroin and an annual death toll reportedly in the tens of thousands from overdoses and other drug-related causes.
This article was posted: Monday, July 6, 2009 at 3:59 am