Oddly Enough

Russia calls time on vodka tipplers at forum

Bottles of vodka move along a conveyor belt at The Mazovian Distillery Polmos S.A. in Jozefow, near Warsaw June 21, 2007. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russia on Thursday called time on vodka drinkers at its top economic conference, outlawing the national tipple from normally well lubricated stands at the St Petersburg Economic Forum.

The ban comes as President Dmitry Medvedev, the keynote speaker, spearheads a campaign against alcohol abuse which includes higher taxes and a minimum price on vodka, and may yet lead to limited sales hours.

“On the territory (of the forum), only beverages no stronger than wine can be drunk,” said Stanislav Voskresensky, a deputy economy minister.

Financial information company Bloomberg covered up a Russian Standard vodka logo on its stand with white paint hours before the forum opened, while a chess lounge favored by government officials moved screens in front of displays of cognac.

Alcohol abuse is a major problem in Russia where, according to Medvedev, the average Russian drinks 18 liters (38 pints) of pure alcohol each year. Successive anti-alcohol campaigns by Soviet leaders all failed to solve the problem.

Writing by Toni Vorobyova, editing by Paul Casciato