Russian authorities have arrested two people as part of an investigation into the fatal poisoning of 18 people who died after they drank bootleg alcohol in the city of Yekaterinburg during the past week.
The Russian Investigative Committee’s branch for the Sverdlovsk Region confirmed on October 16 that the criminal case is focusing on the sale of alcohol that had been bottled at a city market and did not meet safety standards.
The investigation is looking into charges of selling substandard goods and death by negligence, which could result in prison sentences of up to 10 years, the committee said in a statement.
Investigators said several individuals sold people “an alcohol liquid that was dangerous for their health" over the past two weeks in Yekaterinburg. "Eighteen people died after drinking the liquid," the statement said.
Dmitry Chukreyev, a coordinator of the People's Control project of the ruling United Russia party, told TASS that an "entrepreneur who worked at the Botanichesky Market in Yekaterinburg had been selling bottled alcohol" that was thought to have caused the deaths.
Chukreyev said the victims' deaths have been recorded over several days since October 11.
The incident follows the opening of an inquiry earlier this month into a suspected poisoning linked to illegal alcohol in southwestern Russia in which more than 30 died after drinking bootleg alcohol containing methanol, which is highly toxic.
As a result of that incident, there were checks on sales of alcohol at outlets in the Orenburg region, about 1,200 kilometers southeast of Moscow on the border with Kazakhstan. The police arrested several people.
In 2016, more than 60 people died in Irkutsk in Siberia after drinking contraband bath oil that contained methanol.