Russia limits vodka sales in fire-ravaged region

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Authorities in southern Russia said Monday they are limiting the sale of vodka in a region ravaged by forest fires in September, eager to keep people from drowning their sorrows in drink.

Officials in the Volgograd region banned the sale of beverages containing more than 15 percent alcohol except for between 8:00 am and 9:00 am in five districts until a state of emergency is lifted, according to a statement.

A regional official quoted on local news website said the move aimed to help maintain public order by keeping people affected by the fires from turning to alcohol.

In early September forest and brush fires raged in the region around the former Stalingrad due to a heatwave and drought, causing eight deaths and destroying 500 homes.

Alcohol abuse kills around 500,000 Russians annually and greatly impacts male life expectancy, which is lower than in such developing countries as Bangladesh and Honduras, according to official figures.

In August, municipal authorities in Moscow banned sales of spirits and other strong alcohol at night and in the early hours of the morning in a bid to wean Russians off booze.

The Kremlin has recently imposed a ban on drink driving, new minimum legal price limits for vodka and outlawed nighttime sales of alcohol to curb abuse.

© 2010 AFP

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