Russian authorities will monitor alcohol production from space, using infrared satellite photographs to identify illegal producers of vodka, and those who exceed authorized volumes, the Izvestia daily newspaper has reported.
In the past year, the number of companies authorized to produce alcohol in Russia has been reduced by half, but some have continued their activities without a license.
The federal department that regulates the alcohol market has already carried out some observations with the aid of satellites to identify offenders. Satellite expert Boris Dvorkin estimated the high cost of this type of surveillance: each high-resolution, satellite photo costs $500.
Lawyers interviewed by Izvestia doubt the legality of these hi-tech methods, emphasizing that the control of alcohol production must be carried out according to well-defined procedures.
Russian authorities have frequently called for an intensification of the battle against alcoholism, bemoaning the fact that citizens drink more today than in the 1990s, after the 1991 dissolution of the U.S.S.R.
It was ever thus. Back in 1958 (March 3), Izvestia carried another story on vodka – described as "Public Enemy No. 1." The author of the article, Dr Lidia Bogdanovich, proposed the formation of a Soviet Alcoholics Anonymous, to "conduct propaganda for the people's hygiene." In the doctor's view, 70 percent of Russia's crimes and 50 percent of its accidents "are due to drunkenness." Moscow liquor dealers, wrote Bogdanovich, sell vodka illegally to minors, while some parents give their sons wine to make them "real men."
The doctor's tirade came in the midst of a government campaign. In 1958, to discourage drinking, the price of wine and liquor was hiked by 30 percent. At the time, Party Secretary Nikita S. Khrushchev warned that moonshiners and those "who get people drunk" would be punished.
Today, authorities report that alcohol abuse kills half a million people every year – in a country which has a population of 141 million. The life expectancy of Russian men is 59.8 years, compared with 67.9 in Bangladesh and 75.9 in the United States.
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