Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has called for alcohol prohibition to be imposed throughout Russia in a bid to fight one of the nation's biggest killers.
“The best decision would be to put restraints on vodka…What’s the difference between a terrorist and a drunk driver? No difference at all,” Kadyrov said in an interview with the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda.
Alcohol consumption in Russia is more than double the critical level set by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to Russia's Public Chamber, some 500,000 die annually from alcohol-related diseases.
Russia’s public health chief Gennady Onishchenko was quick to add his support for the proposal, but said it was “unachievable.”
Onishchenko called for the price of a bottle of strong liquor to be increased to $100 from the current minimum $3.
“Alcohol is so affordable, children and youth can get it,” he said.
Under current law, teenagers can buy alcoholic drinks after the age of 18.
Control over sales of alcohol and tobacco has been increased in recent years in Russia, with sales now banned at night and beer finally being classed as an alcoholic drink.
Dmitry Dobrov, the head of Russia’s union of wine and spirits producers, criticized Kadyrov’s proposal, saying attempts to impose a dry law in Tsarist Russia in the early 1900s did not yield any “series positive changes.”
“Why repeat the same mistake?” he said. Such a move would lead to a rise in the production of bootleg liquor, he added.
Mikhail Gorbachev was the last Russian leader to try to clamp down on alcohol consumption in the mid-1980s, as rampant alcoholism was already taking its toll on the Soviet Union’s economy and health system.
The campaign was dropped following a dramatic rise in the production of moonshine, or ‘samogon.’ Some drinkers even resorted to medicinal spirits and aftershave in the face of shortages of legal booze.
For those keen to hit the bottle whatever, one of Russia's most familiar institutions - the drunk-tank - is about to disappear.
Russia’s health officials have long regarded drunk-tanks as a hangover from Soviet times, and the last 12 remaining facilities are set to close down by the end of the week.
Drunks will now be delivered either to police stations or hospital.