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Russia to limit hours when people can buy vodka

Russia shortens hours Moscow supermarkets, shops and kiosks may legally sell vodka in toughest anti-alcohol campaign since  Soviet Union collapse
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Russia is shortening the hours Moscow supermarkets, shops and kiosks may legally sell vodka.

The 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. ban will replace lax rules that theoretically forbid selling the grain-based spirit from 11 p.m. to 8 p.m but which in practice allow them to sell vodka around the clock if they get a permit, said RIA Novosti news agency.

The new hours go into effect Sept. 1.

An order will ban prefectures from issuing permits to sell alcohol round-the-clock in local shops.

Beer, wine and bottled alcoholic "light" cocktails with no more than 15 percent alcohol content are not affected by the new law, RIA said. Restaurants and nightclubs are also not affected by the new law and may serve alcoholic beverages 24 hours a day, it said.

The limit comes as the Kremlin pushes ahead with the harshest anti-alcohol campaign since former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s draconian ban on vodka sales in 1985, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported. Gorbachev, who became a hate figure for many ordinary Russians as a result of the ban, decreed that vodka could only be sold from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. His campaign prompted desperate drunks to rush to get their fix by imbibing perfume and other hazardous intoxicants instead, the newspaper said.

However, Yevgeny Brun, Russia’s top government expert in drug and alcohol abuse, told the  Russian news agency Interfax he welcomed the new restrictions, the Telegraph said.

“It is a very good measure that will make it possible to reduce the alcoholic strain on the population,” Brun said. "Russian officials estimate that 500,000 people die for alcohol-related reasons every year, while President Dmitry Medvedev has declared Russia’s drinking problem “a national disaster.”

The move to restrict vodka sales comes after the government set a minimum price for vodka and cut the amount of alcohol permissible in motorists’ blood to zero, the Telegraph said.