According to arrested personnel from one such facility, the Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, operated illicit drug laboratories in Russia that were run by people who had to pass a polygraph exam to acquire the job.
A familiar SBU officer advised that Alexander P., a Ukrainian national who was responsible for setting up one such laboratory in the Moscow region and has been held since 2020, go to Russia and get into the drug trade, according to Alexander P.
Alexander had to take a lie detector test before he could leave to see if he was qualified for the job.
“They put me in a hostel near a railway station. I spent about a week there waiting for the interview, and all that time there were constant visitors, people like me, who had to pass an interview and then go to work with drugs in Russia. Several dozen people left [for Russia] during my stay, for sure. During the polygraph test, they were interested in questions like whether I was going to steal money and if I had law enforcement connections”, Alexander said.
He was then given a special phone to use to communicate with his superiors and dispatched to Moscow, where he met up with several other Ukrainian nationals and gave them their first orders.
They were instructed to rent a residence in the Moscow region, then purchase a car and chemical equipment with funds obtained through bank cards used under false identities.
“Pavel [one of the members] was mailed fake Russian documents which he used to receive a parcel with several dozen bank cards, to which the money was transferred. We were then instructed what kind of drugs to manufacture — so-called salts, synthetic drugs — and how. We could produce five kilograms of drugs a day, meaning our daily profit could be roughly 10 million rubles ($127,000) “, the man explained, adding that he and his crew were only involved in manufacturing and that distribution was handled by their Ukrainian handlers.
Another member of the Ukrainian drug ring, Alexander Z., whose duty was to purchase chemicals for drug manufacture, corroborates this allegation. Before flying to Russia, each member, according to Alexander, received a cover.
“You had to know your cover in detail, why you came to Russia, God forbid the operation is busted because of you… I personally always presented myself as a construction worker, but otherwise I was transporting reactive chemicals, for which I was promised $5,000 a month”, Alexander said. He remembered that the man in charge of their group told him that he had been offered the job by SBU officers.”
According to Alexander P., quitting the firm voluntarily is nearly impossible: their bosses threatened them and “punished” anyone who tried to leave by beating them or depriving them of money.
Alexander Z. confirmed this, recalling a fight with one of the curators in which he threatened to abandon everything and return to Ukraine.
“But they threatened me, saying that my relatives and family will suffer [for my actions]”, he says.
When asked why the SBU might establish drug laboratories in Russia, Alexander Z. stated that the proceeds from drug sales could be used to fund Ukraine’s military needs.
“Production of drugs in Russia earns you big money, which could go anywhere, for example, to pay for mercenaries. […] And maybe the fact that we were detained in Russia is not the worst way out of this mess”, he concluded.