MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow banned night-time sales of vodka and other spirits on Wednesday, part of a nationwide drive to curb crime and disease linked with Russia's national drink.
The ban is among a series of tough measures to reduce alcohol abuse ordered last year by President Dmitry Medvedev as part of a fight to slow Russia's persistent population decline. He called alcoholism a "national disaster" that undermines public health and hampers the economy.
A ban on retail sales of drinks with alcohol content of more than 15 percent between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. came into force on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Moscow City Hall's retail department said. Bars and restaurants are not affected.
The ban, which brings Moscow into line with several other Russian regions, is aimed at curbing alcohol abuse, youth drinking and crime, the spokeswoman said.
In a drive to cut alcohol consumption and reduce the number of alcohol-related deaths, the federal authorities have tripled the excise duty on beer and introduced minimum prices for vodka.
The average Russian drinks 18 liters of pure alcohol per year, and a campaign against alcohol said earlier this year that 3,000 Russians a year die from alcohol poisoning and more than 75,000 from alcohol-related diseases.
In 1985 the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, declared war on the age-old Russian vice, ordering dramatic cuts in the production of wines and spirits and introducing strict controls on public consumption of alcohol.
The campaign caused a surge in the illegal production of low-quality home-brewed booze and the curbs dealt a blow to Gorbachev's popularity.
Wednesday's ban could increase sales of home-made "moonshine" and create an "alcoholic underground," the head of the upper house of parliament, Sergei Mironov, said on his web site mironov.ru.
An earlier ban on night-time alcohol sales in Moscow was severely undermined by a loophole that allowed 800 stores to sell alcohol round the clock.
City Hall said there would be no exceptions this time and any outlet defying the ban can lose its license.
Writing by Conor Humphries; editing by Tim Pearce