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Putin Judo Pal Proposes Ban On Fast-Food Ads

Will it be illegal in Russia to advertise McDonald’s Big Macs?
Will it be illegal in Russia to advertise McDonald’s Big Macs?

MOSCOW -- Are Whoppers, Big Macs, french fries, and fizzy drinks as dangerous to the health of a nation as alcohol?

A Russian lawmaker and old judo partner of President Vladimir Putin is trying to make that case as he campaigns for a far-reaching, alcohol-style ban on the advertising of sugary drinks and fatty foods.

Vasily Shestakov, a deputy for the United Russia party, vowed in comments to the Kommersant daily on July 7 to submit amendments soon that "effectively equate fast-food advertising to alcohol advertising."

Ads for alcohol are banned in Russia.

He proposes calling a foodstuff "harmful" if it has more than 12.5 grams of sugar, 1.5 grams of sodium, 20 grams of fat, or more than 5 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams.

He said such foods are "in contradiction with national food."

Duma deputy Vasily Shestakov (left) with President Vladimir Putin in 2013
Duma deputy Vasily Shestakov (left) with President Vladimir Putin in 2013

The proposal would outlaw advertising for such products in public places and on TV or radio between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The proposal comes against a backdrop of anti-Western sentiment in Russia, stoked by the Ukraine conflict and tit-for-tat sanctions that have seen major fast-food outlets in Russia associated with the West come under pressure.

Several deputies have clamored for the closure of McDonald's. A flagship McDonald's restaurant at Moscow's Pushkin Square that opened in 1990 was shuttered for several months last year and some of the franchise's other outlets similarly closed down over alleged health and safety violations.

In April, celebrated movie director Nikita Mikhalkov won backing from Putin when he promised to launch a "patriotic" Russian fast-food chain.

Shestakov's advertising ban goes further than just fast food and reportedly does not propose a mechanism for distinguishing between foreign and domestic foods. Not only would the initiative ensnare a raft of fast-food joints and sugary-drink makers, but it could also ban advertising for Russia's fermented rye-bread drink known as kvass, some margarines, and some types of sausage, according to Kommersant.

It would also deal a powerful blow to the country's advertising industry, which could lose 8 percent of its clientele.

Shestakov is a veteran of the State Duma with longstanding ties to Putin. He co-founded the Yavara-Neva judo club where Putin is president and businessman Arkady Rotenberg is general director. Shestakov also co-authored books with Putin on Russia, Judo. History, Theory, Practice and another called Let's Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin.

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