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Dmitry Medvedev begins tough anti-alcohol campaign in Russia
Russia's president has begun the toughest anti-alcohol campaign since the collapse of the Soviet Union in an attempt to halt a population decline.
Mr Medvedev, a yoga-lover who sips his drinks at official receptions, called Russia's drinking problem a "national disaster" last month.
However any action is fraught with risk for a man who already faces questions over his credibility as a tough leader.
The sight of desperate drunks dying after consuming perfume and other intoxicants during the last campaign to restrict alcohol in 1985 dealt a hammer blow to the popularity of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet president.
The new campaign appears to reflect the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church whose head, Patriarch Kirill, is playing a more prominent role in public life.
Mr Medvedev has given the government three months to act. He wants shop assistants who sell alcohol to anyone under 18 more than once to face criminal sanctions, cans of alcopops and cocktail drinks to be restricted to 330ml, and new health warnings to cover at least a fifth of beer and other cans.
The hundreds of thousands of street kiosks that supply many Russians with their drink will be banned from selling strong beer, which is usually 9 per cent proof.
More controversially, the president has asked the government to consider a minimum price for vodka and a Soviet-style government monopoly on its production. Half-litre bottles currently start at just 100 roubles or £2, making it affordable for even the poorest.
The imperative is to stop Russians drinking themselves to death. The population of around 142 million is falling by 700,000 people each year and government statistics showed that the Gorbachev campaign extended life expectancy by three years.
A report in The Lancet medical journal in June said alcohol-related diseases caused more than half of all deaths of Russians aged 15 to 54 in the 1990s and average male life expectancy is just over 60.
"The initiative is good and timely," said Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent social analyst. "But there's no sign it will be different from other initiatives that brought no results beyond allocating huge sums of money."