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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Alcohol Monopoly Gains Support

Senior leaders on Wednesday came out in favor of establishing a state monopoly on the alcohol industry, an idea floated by State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov on Tuesday.

Leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovsky said his party had been pushing for a monopoly for 13 years. "If the production and sale of alcohol were in the state's hands, the poisonings from alcohol substitutes would stop and the budget would receive a hefty windfall," he said.

Zhirinovsky said that in addition to creating a state alcohol monopoly, the government should regulate the sale of inexpensive vodka.

"Snack bars should be opened like we had in the Soviet era, so that you could get a drink and something to eat for 20 rubles [75 cents]," Zhirinovsky said Wednesday, Interfax reported.

Zhirinovsky said cheap vodka was a part of Russian life but that it should only be sold in stores, preferably large ones. "Alcohol should not be sold at kiosks," he said.

Andrei Vorobyov, head of United Russia's central executive committee, said the current system for controlling alcohol quality was ineffective, Interfax reported.

The introdution of a state monopoly on the production and sale of alcohol was essential, because "poor-quality alcohol threatens the health and lives of our citizens, and that means it is a threat to national security."

Vorobyov said United Russia, one of two parties known as the parties of power for their allegiance to the Kremlin, would "demand" that the government take immediate action to address the problem.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who introduced severe restrictions on the production and sale of alcohol in the mid-1980s, said Wednesday that it was hard to avoid feeling that "someone wants to achieve something" from the recent wave of alcohol-poisoning cases across the country, Interfax reported.

"It could be a reaction by producers to the state's increasing control in this area, or perhaps someone wants to increase this control even further -- to introduce a monopoly," Gorbachev said.

Most deaths from toxic hepatitis and other alcohol-related conditions have occurred in rural areas and small towns.

No cases of toxic hepatitis have been recorded in Moscow, Andrei Seltsovsky, head of the city's public health department, told reporters Wednesday, Interfax reported.

Seltsovsky said 420 people had been hospitalized with poisoning from consuming alcohol substitutes -- products containing alcohol that are not intended for consumption -- in October, and 340 in September, but none were diagnosed with toxic hepatitis.