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Opinion
Leonid Bershidsky

Cocaine Bust Is the Latest Sign of Putin's Weakness

A foiled cocaine shipment from Argentina helps build Russia's reputation as a mob state.
In control?

In control?

Photographer: Dmitry Lovetsky/AFP/Getty Images

The mind-boggling news story of cocaine-filled suitcases at the Russian embassy school in Buenos Aires demonstrates that the tolerance President Vladimir Putin's regime has shown for all kinds of moonlighting and freelancing by its servants has gone too far. The regime needs to find a way to curb it; otherwise it will end up being treated as a criminal organization.

The official version of the story raises more questions than it answers. Some 18 months ago someone (the Russian foreign ministry won't say who) found bags filled with almost 400 kilograms of cocaine stored in the embassy school building. According to Argentine sources, Russian Ambassador Viktor Koronelli alerted the local police. The bags allegedly belonged to a former technical employee of the embassy whose contract had expired. Russian and Argentinian officials then conducted a joint operation that culminated in December 2017, when the bags were filled with flour, fitted with a GPS device and flown to Moscow to determine the recipient. Three people were detained, including the former embassy employee and two people who tried to claim the cargo.