Russian authorities say 15 people have died during the past two weeks from drinking illegally produced alcoholic beverages, including five in a Siberian city who drank counterfeit American whiskey purchased online.
Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for Russia's federal Investigative Committee, told the state-owned TASS news agency that 10 other people had been hospitalized with "serious poisoning" during the same period after drinking illegally produced alcohol.
He said the deaths in various locations throughout the country demonstrate the need to place alcohol production back under state control and to implement tighter controls over imports.
"In our country the introduction of such a measure like a monopoly on the production of ethyl alcohol and perhaps on all alcoholic production, would significantly safeguard our citizens and increase revenues for the state budget," Markin was quoted by the state-run TASS news agency as saying.
Five of the deaths occurred in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, TASS reported.
A health ministry spokesperson said that, in total, 28 residents of the city suffered alcohol poisoning due to counterfeit whiskey that they ordered on the Internet for prices significantly cheaper than the top-shelf brands the knock-off spirits were advertised as.
Russian health officials in August called on the government to step up its efforts to combat illegal alcohol production and promote healthy lifestyles, noting that mortality rates in the country are highest in regions with the highest levels of alcoholism.