MOSCOW A Russian monument to a bottle of vodka has been toppled over fears that it could be seen as an illegal advert for the country's favorite tipple.
The three-meter metal sculpture had become a local landmark in the Urals town of Glazov, 1,000 km (600 miles) east of Moscow. But residents woke up one morning last week to discover it had disappeared, leaving only an empty plinth.
The bottle's fall reflects a new, sober spirit of the age in Russia under President Vladimir Putin, a judo blackbelt who rides, flies and dives for the TV cameras but is rarely seen raising a glass - unless to toast a billion-dollar oil deal.
Putin signed a ban on all alcohol advertising in July last year, while other laws have banned sales of alcohol from street kiosks or after 11 p.m. at night.
Initial reports suggested that local authorities were behind the disappearance of the memorial, erected 13 years ago to mark the centenary of the local Glazovskiy spirits factory.
But factory bosses later told local media they had decided to remove the monument from public view over fears that it could fall foul of the strict new advertising laws.
"The bottle monument...might be considered as an advert for our products. For this reason, a decision was taken to remove it," Dmitry Pozdeev, the head of the factory's legal department, told local media. The sculpture was moved into the factory.
Russian media suggested anti-drinking campaigners might have more work left to do in the region. They pointed out another sculpture to meat dumplings - a popular Russian drinking snack - is still standing in the regional city of Izhevsk.
(Reporting by Sonia Elks; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Oliver Holmes)