NewsDeadly Snow Queen

Deadly Snow Queen

In the Southern Urals it is clear that poor people in particular die of adulterated vodka

There is a state of emergency in the Russian region of Orenburg: Loudspeaker vans drive through the streets in the city of Orsk, warning of poisoned alcohol that is offered in plastic and glass bottles. Up to yesterday, 34 people from the region in the southern Urals had died of such alcohol. They came from the city of Orsk, where about 240,000 people live, as well as surrounding villages and had drunk schnapps, which was mixed with deadly methanol even in small doses.

2200 liters of fusel secured

A total of 67 people were poisoned, 24 were treated in hospital yesterday. 15 suspected panchers and their accomplices were arrested, and a deputy district attorney lost his post. A warehouse in Orsk, in which 2200 liters of poisoned spirits were seized in metal barrels, is said to belong to his wife. 1279 half-liter bottles were also found, with labels of vodka brands that are quite common in Russia, such as “Chortizja” or “Snow Queen”. They can be bought in supermarkets for the equivalent of four to six euros.

According to the state television, the perpetrators had bought industrial alcohol in Ufa, the capital of the neighboring republic of Bashkiria, which is used for the production of anti-rust agents. They apparently mixed the liquid, which contained highly toxic methanol, with water and other chemicals to sell it as vodka or brandy. According to the Orenburg health authorities, methanol levels were measured in the blood of some victims that exceeded the lethal dose by five times.

It is still unclear how the poisonous spirits ended up on the market. And at what prices they were offered. The regional government offers citizens to exchange already bought spirits in supermarkets for food parcels.

Obviously, most of the victims come from poor backgrounds, and many may have been alcoholics. For example, residents of the village of Aksharskoye told the portal ural56.ru that the five children left by a married couple had been neglected before. “The parents drank all the time, the whole village knew about it, but nobody did anything.” In Krasny Tschaban, too, it was mostly poor people who were affected, as Murat Sujenbajew, head of the municipal council, explained. All the poisoned had bought the booze in the village shop, the wife of the owner had been arrested, he told the portal orenday.ru.

According to official data, the consumption of alcohol by Russians is constantly falling. According to Health Minister Michail Muraschko, people over 15 in Russia only drink an average of 10.8 liters of pure alcohol per year – about as much as in Germany (10.7 liters) and slightly less than in Austria (11.6 liters). In 2010 it was 15.8 liters in Russia.

Many are not picky

But while Russian city youth actually enjoy significantly less hard alcohol, more and more schnapps is being distilled in the countryside. This is officially prohibited, but you can buy stills in online shops for as little as eight euros. For a statistically not recorded, but considerable part of the often economically disadvantaged rural and small town dwellers: inside, drinking has become the only meaning in life.

More than 21 million people in Russia – that’s 14.4 percent of the population – live below the official poverty line of 140 euros. Many are not picky about the procurement of alcohol, buy the cheapest, some even mix medication or antifreeze into it themselves. According to the Russian statistics office, there were 50,000 alcohol deaths last year.

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