By MANSUR MIROVALEV, Associated Press

REUTOV, Russia (AP) — Nikolai Leonov was walking through this Moscow suburb with his 2-year-old daughter when the toddler bent down and picked up a bloodied syringe from the grass. “I snatched it away from her a second before she could hurt herself,” Leonov said, still shaken days later.

The computer hardware shop owner is one of millions of Russians horrified by a drug abuse epidemic that has turned Russia into the world’s largest consumer of heroin.

An Associated Press-GfK poll released this month shows that nearly nine in 10 Russians (87 percent) identify drug abuse as at least a “very serious” problem in Russia today, including 55 percent describing the problem as “extremely serious.” The only other issue that worries as many Russians (85 percent) is the corruption that pervades Russian society, business and politics.

 Russians living across the vast country, of all levels of education and income, differ little when it comes to the extent of the drug abuse problem, although 91 percent of urban dwellers see it as a serious problem, compared to 82 percent of rural residents. Unprompted, 10 percent of Russians cite criminality, alcohol or drug abuse as the most important problem facing the country today, on par with the share citing basic needs such as medical care, housing and education.

 Some 2.5 million Russians are addicted to drugs, and 90 percent of them use the heroin that has flooded into Russia from Afghanistan since the late 1990s, according to government statistics. The nation with a population of 143 million consumes 70 tons of Afghan heroin every year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

 Heroin kills 80 Russians each day — or 30,000 a year — and is “as easy to buy as a Snickers” chocolate bar, Russia’s anti-drug czar Viktor Ivanov said. Meanwhile, new drugs — such as highly addictive synthetic marijuana and a cheap and lethal concoction made of codeine pills known as “crocodile” — compete with heroin and kill thousands more.

 Drug addicts are also the people Russians would least like to have as neighbors, according to the AP-GfK poll. They are seen as more undesirable than alcoholics by a margin of 87 to 77 percent.

 The AP-GfK poll was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications from May 25 to June 10 and was based on in-person interviews with 1,675 randomly selected adults nationwide. The results have a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

 Leonov lives with his accountant wife and two children in a recently renovated one-bedroom apartment in Reutov, a suburb of Moscow known for its Soviet-era research institutes and defense factories. A statue of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin still stands on the town square. Their biggest problem is the addicts who live in the neighborhood.

 Last year, he saw the body of an addict who apparently had overdosed right next to the playground where his children play. “He was there for a couple of hours before the cops showed up,” Leonov said, pointing at a wooden bench where a bespectacled elderly woman was sitting.

 Leonov claimed that the heroin that killed the addict was sold by a neighbor, who was always dirty and dressed in rags but flaunted a collection of new cell phones. His customers, mostly skinny and chain-smoking youngsters, would leave used syringes on the asphalt and occupy the benches for hours after getting their fix. The neighbor was arrested this spring, but Leonov said little has changed because the addicts apparently found another source of heroin nearby.

 The heroin epidemic caught Russia by surprise.

 Before the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the number of drug addicts who used intravenous injections was extremely low. But the rise of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan opened a floodgate of cheap heroin, which flowed into Russia through the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

 The arrival of NATO troops in Afghanistan only aggravated the situation, because coalition troops were instructed not to eradicate poppy crops for fear of driving the farmers into the ranks of the Taliban.

 Moscow for years has been urging the U.S. military in Afghanistan to take stronger action against local drug labs and smugglers, but the production of Afghan opium since NATO’s arrival has increased 40-fold, according to anti-drug czar Ivanov.

 Most of Russia’s 2.5 million drug addicts are aged 18 to 39 — a generation of Russians lost to heroin.

 ”The only thing the government can do is save the new generation, because we cannot be saved,” said Valery, a former heroin addict from the Volga River city of Samara. He gave only his first name because his support group does not allow contacts with the media.

 After a meeting with a dozen other recovering drug addicts, he recalled childhood friends who had overdosed, gone to jail or been infected with HIV after sharing contaminated needles. He remembered sharing a needle with a man who he knew had been in jail and thus had a high chance of being infected with HIV.

 ”I needed a fix that badly,” said Valery, now a barrel-chested body builder. “Only God saved me” from getting infected, he said.

 Infection is a major concern for Leonov’s family. In the past decade, the number of HIV infections in Russia has tripled in one of the world’s fastest-growing epidemics of the virus that causes AIDS, according to the United Nations. An estimated four fifths of the 980,000 Russians officially registered as HIV positive became infected through dirty needles.

 When Leonov’s wife, Yelena, was in a maternity hospital to give birth to their daughter, Nastya, she saw another pregnant woman injecting heroin brought in by her husband. Doctors at the hospital told her they would not isolate the woman because she might die or lose her child if she went through withdrawal, she said.



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How the AP-GfK poll was conducted


The Associated Press-GfK Poll in Russia, on views of drug abuse, was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from May 25-June 10. It is based on a national random sample of 1,675 Russians age 18 and older from different interviewing locations.


One hundred cities and districts were initially selected, with probability proportionate to size. Next 200 urban and rural blocks were randomly selected from the 100.


Excluded from the block selection were remote and low-populated areas, including some high-mountain terrain, and clusters of minority and ethnic groups whose command of Russian was limited. The lack of official statistics makes it difficult to estimate the amount of non-coverage, but it is probably somewhere between 3 and 6 percent.


In the blocks, interviewers were assigned random routes with rules to randomly select a household for the interview. Interviewers then recorded the number of adults in the household and randomly selected an adult for the interview. Interviewers revisited the home if the selected adult was not present.


Interviews were conducted in Russian.


As done routinely in surveys, results were weighted, or adjusted, to ensure that responses accurately reflect the population’s makeup. The sample was weighted to take into account the sampling method, as well as for age and sex.


No more than one time in 20 should chance variations in the sample cause the results to vary by more than plus or minus 2.9 percentage points from the answers that would be obtained if all adults in Russia were polled.


There are other sources of potential error in polls, including the wording and order of questions.

 Topline results are available at and

The questions and results are available at .

AP-GfK poll: Voters more confident in Trump’s health
WASHINGTON (AP) — The “stamina,” the “look”: A new poll suggests voters are buying in to Donald Trump’s insinuations about Hillary Clinton’s health. They’re ignoring the medical reports.

Voters — especially men — have more confidence that Trump is healthy enough for the presidency than Clinton, according to the Associated Press-GfK poll.

It’s a disconnect considering Clinton has released more medical information than Trump, and that outside doctors who’ve looked at the available data say both candidates seem fine. But it shows the political points Trump scored after the Democratic nominee’s much-publicized mild case of pneumonia.

 Another gender divide: Nearly half of women but just 4 in 10 men think Clinton’s health is getting too much attention, found the poll, which was taken before the presidential candidates’ debate on Monday.

“Everybody gets sick,” said Sherri Smart, 56, of New York. She said she hasn’t decided who to vote for but wishes the candidates would discuss issues instead of sniping about who’s most vigorous.

“What’s important is, what are you going to do for me?” Smart said.

The AP-GfK poll found 51 percent of voters are very or extremely confident that Trump is healthy enough to be president. In contrast, just over a third of voters — 36 percent — had the same confidence in Clinton’s health.

Men are more likely to question Clinton’s physical fitness for the job, with 45 percent saying they’re only slightly or not at all confident compared to 34 percent of women. Men and women are about equally likely to express confidence in Trump’s health. More Democrats are confident of Trump’s health than Republicans are of Clinton’s.

Health is a legitimate issue as the nation is poised to elect one of its oldest presidents. Trump, 70, for months held off disclosing much about his own fitness while stoking questions about a woman in the White House with his assertion, repeated on national TV Monday, that Clinton lacks the look and stamina for the job. (As for his apparent sniffles during Monday’s debate, he blamed a bad microphone.)

“Stamina is a code word for maybe not physically up to the job,” said New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan, who has called for an independent panel to certify the health of presidential candidates. “There’s something of a bias about men versus women that subtly Trump has played to, that men are more fit, tough enough to do the job.”

Clinton, 68, last year released more detail about her own health history only to buy trouble earlier this month by refusing to take a sick day until a public stumble forced her to reveal the pneumonia diagnosis. But Monday she rebutted Trump’s talk of stamina by wondering if he could match her grueling schedule as a secretary of state — traveling to 112 countries, negotiating peace deals, spending 11 hours testifying before a congressional committee.

What exactly do we know about their health? Neither has released their actual medical records, just a summary from their personal physicians with no way to know if anything important was left out.

Yet another disconnect: The AP-GfK poll found nearly 4 in 10 voters don’t consider such a release important, and another 2 in 10 say it’s only moderately important.

Trump’s gastroenterologist in December released a four-paragraph letter saying the GOP nominee would be “the healthiest individual ever elected.” Earlier this month, Trump took to “The Dr. Oz Show” to say he felt great, while releasing a bit more detail, such as his cholesterol levels and cancer screenings.

Bottom line: Trump takes a cholesterol-lowering statin medication and a baby aspirin, has some mild plaque in his arteries and is overweight — but was declared generally in good health.

Last summer, Clinton’s internist released a two-page letter detailing her family history, prior exams including lab test results, and some prior ailments that have healed — including a 2012 concussion and blood clot Clinton suffered after becoming dehydrated from a stomach virus and fainting. This month, a second letter outlined the mild pneumonia and revealed some updated check-up results.

Bottom line: Clinton takes a blood thinner as a precaution given a history of blood clots, as well as a thyroid medication and allergy relievers — but also was declared generally in good health.

Some doctors say just watching how the candidates handle a physically demanding campaign trail and the cognitive finesse needed to debate can give voters a good idea of health.

But while the public may not pay attention to cholesterol tests and EKGs, it was hard to miss that image of Clinton stumbling.

“The public is feeding off the impressions they’ve received, but that’s not borne out by the letters of health,” said Dr. Howard Selinger, chair of family medicine at Quinnipiac University.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,694 adults, including 1,476 registered voters, was conducted online Sept. 15-19, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, and for registered voters is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t have access to the internet were provided access for free.



Poll results:

AP-GfK poll shows voter distaste for Putin-style leadership
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump has called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a leader — unlike what we have in this country.”

But most Americans don’t agree with Trump’s assessment of Putin’s leadership skills, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows.

Only 24 percent of registered voters say Putin has leadership qualities that would be good for an American president to share, while 71 percent say he does not. In fact, a majority, 56 percent, said they have an unfavorable view of Putin, while only 10 percent said they view the Russian leader favorably.

 Voters were split on whether Trump would be too close to Putin, with 42 percent saying they think Trump would be too close, and 41 percent saying his approach would be about right. Fourteen percent think he would not be close enough.
By comparison, most voters (53 percent) think Democrat Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Putin would be about right, while 11 percent think she would be too close and 32 percent think she would not be close enough.

The relationship between the Republican nominee and the Russian strongman began taking on new life when Putin praised Trump last December as “bright and talented” and “the absolute leader of the presidential race.”

The billionaire businessman hailed Putin’s regard for him as a “great honor,” brushing off widespread allegations that the Russian president has ordered the killing of political dissidents and journalists.

“Our country does plenty of killing also,” Trump told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in December.

Four in 10 Trump supporters and only 1 in 10 Hillary Clinton supporters say Putin has leadership qualities that would be good for an American president to have. Still, even among Trump’s supporters, just 16 percent have a favorable opinion of Putin. Only 5 percent of Clinton’s supporters do.

Marissa Garth, a 28-year-old stay-at-home mom from Smithfield, Utah, said she plans to vote for Trump this November because he exhibits the qualities of a strong leader — not to be compared with Putin.

“I think (Putin) is a strong leader for his country,” she said. “But at the same time I don’t think he necessarily has the qualities that I would want as a president.”

In fact, the poll finds that men are more likely than women to say that Putin has leadership qualities that would be good in an American president, 28 percent to 19 percent.

Among Clinton’s supporters, 69 percent say Trump would be too close to Putin. Forty-nine percent of those supporting another candidate share that view, but only 8 percent of Trump supporters say their candidate would be too close to Putin. Eighty percent of Trump supporters say his approach would be about right. Among conservatives, 20 percent say Trump would be too close to Putin.

There is nothing 54-year old Gary Sellers, of Homewood, Illinois, likes about Putin — or Trump. He called Putin a “dictator,” adding, “there are no qualities of his that I wish that an American president would have.”

A lukewarm Clinton supporter, he’s concerned that Trump shares Putin’s extreme views of governing. “I feel he has a dictatorial approach toward being president of the United States,” Sellers said of Trump.

Forty-seven percent of voters say they approve and 52 percent disapprove of President Barack Obama’s handling of the U.S. relationship with Russia.

Voters are divided over whether the next president should take a tougher approach to Putin (42 percent) or whether the current approach is about right (39 percent). Just 16 percent think the next president should take a friendlier approach.

Just under half of voters (48 percent) say the U.S. relationship with Russia is a very or extremely important issue, ranking it low on Americans’ list of priorities, far below issues like the economy (92 percent), the threat posed by the Islamic State group (70 percent), the U.S. role in world affairs more generally (68 percent) and immigration (60 percent).

There’s a generational divide over Russia. Two-thirds of voters age 65 and over and more than half of those between 50 and 64 call the U.S. relationship with Russia very or extremely important, while only 4 in 10 30-49 year olds and only a third of those under 30 say the same.

Generally speaking, voters are more likely to say they trust Clinton than Trump on negotiating with Russia, 40 percent to 33 percent. Nineteen percent say they trust neither and 7 percent trust both equally.

John Eppenger, 68, a retiree in Fairfield, Ala., said that when it comes to dealing with Russia, Clinton would “do a much better job than Trump. She’s not perfect, she’s not ideal, but she’s better.”


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,694 adults, including 1,476 registered voters, was conducted online Sept. 15-19, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, and for registered voters is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t have access to the internet were provided access for free.



Poll results: