Drugs and weapons: what is sold on Russian dark web?
How are drugs and weapons sold? How much do they cost? How can you buy a safari to Donetsk People’s Republic (region of Ukraine)? We researched the Russian dark web and talked to its active users in order to answer these questions.
The sale of Drugs is one of the main reasons for dark web popularity. A lot of forums and darknet markets give an opportunity for everyone to buy any drug. The offer is certainly limited and prices are higher compared to Western DNMs. Ordinarily a buyer communicates with a vendor using encryption, pays for purchases in cryptocurrencies (bitcoin in most cases) or e-money (Qiwi is the most common). Russian drug vendors use two methods of delivery: “treasures” – when dope is hidden in a random place, postal or courier service is used for shipping countrywide.
Many darknet shops selling drugs are highly structured, their stuff includes dealers, recruiting specialists, packers, logistics, carriers, “treasure men” and even PR-managers. Employees are also found on the deep web. We spoke to an HR manager of a reputable Internet drug store located in Saint-Petersburg. He said that “treasure men” were wanted urgently with starting salaries of about $2,500. In order to earn that much a treasure man has to work 6 days a week for 2-3 hours. The work is as follows: in the evening you need to receive prepackaged drugs and hide about 20-30 treasures in the morning. Drop points are picked on a case by case basis. This part of the stuff is at the highest risk. In a private talk, a treasure man with 3 years experience admitted: “Everyone will be caught sooner or later. Only elites of drug business can feel safe – they are hard to identify”. An HR manager added: “You can expect a promotion to the position of an operator in three months. Surely, if you prove yourself to be a good worker”. Operators communicate with customers and treasure men, receive payments and solve disputes. In some cases they control functioning and finances of a shop. Depending on an operator’s experience he can get up to 50% of a store profit.
Sale of weapons is not widely spread on the Russian dark web. Only a few dealers can be found on the largest darknet markets and forums, also there are several websites containing weapons catalogues and contact information. We managed to talk to only two vendors. One of them sells “mass-scale models” (non-combat copies of weapons) remade in military arms. Another one claims to be a Ukrainian partisan selling “absolutely clean weapons”. They have almost the same terms of purchase: after 50-100% prepayment in bitcoins a purchase is delivered by a courier or hidden in a drop point. But the range of goods differs: the handicraftsman offers Makarov pistols while the Ukrainian dealer – AK-74 which “acquired a good reputation in Donbass”. Both of them promise to find something more serious by request.
Prices vary greatly – for example an AK-47 can be bought for the price from $700 to $3,500. Dealers did not reveal a supplier of weapons, however they confirmed the fact, that arms originate from Donbass and other regions of Ukraine. One of vendors said “a delivery to Saint-Petersburg takes a week”. Dealers are not interested in the purpose of a customer’s purchase, so they sell “without any questions”. Interviewed sellers complain about a lack of buyers, saying: “Arms trade is a super-profitable idea only in theory. In practice we have a shortage of demand.”
Safari in Donetsk
In October 2017, there was posted an advertisement on the darknet forum RuTor. The authors, who call themselves “Donbass volunteers”, offer trips to Donetsk People’s Republic. “During a safari across places where military operations are conducted, you can shoot and feel an adrenaline rush. We do not guarantee your safety, but a group of 6 men (all of them are professionals) will support you”. The trip takes a week.
The authors believe that travels to Donbass will become a new amusement for rich people. He says: “In the past rich competed with each other in pretending to be homeless. When they come back from Donbass, they will brag about real victories”.