Dozens dead or hospitalised after drinking vodka containing highly toxic ingredient

Three people were arrested when police said it was “a miracle” that more people were not killed by the shady alcohol in Orsk, Orenburg Region, Russia, where illegal vodka has been a scourge for years

Another person of interest is interviewed by law enforcement about the deaths (

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A total of 18 people have died in Russia after consuming illegal alcohol containing highly toxic methanol.

Three people were arrested when police said it was “a miracle” that the shady alcohol did not kill more people as the seller protested his innocence.

Another 18 people were hospitalized.

Murat Berekeshov, 41, and his wife Aislu, 39, and – reportedly – their five children have now been orphaned among the victims of the counterfeit vodka.

Others who died in Orsk, Orenburg region, were retired Aleksandr Sirotinin, 68, along with Dmitry Karelin, 40, and Zhan Nurmakanov, 36.

A person of interest in the case of fatal alcohol poisoning in the Orenburg region
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Local resident Dmitry Granchenko, 42, fought for his life after drinking the fake alcohol.

A vendor of the deadly drink Ildar Suyunshalinov said, “I bought the alcohol from the Orsk wholesale base. I didn’t know it was fatal. “

Police said it was a “miracle” that the bootleg liquor stopped being sold, leading to more deaths.

In some cases, its concentration in the body was three to five times higher than a lethal dose, a local official said.

Crates of fake alcohol discovered by law enforcement in the Orenburg region
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The dead were between 36 and 72 years old, it said.

Extensive investigations are currently underway against two men, aged 60 and 28, and one woman, 47.

It was later reported that two other men and one woman were detained in connection with the poisoning.

More than 1,000 bottles were confiscated, although the counterfeit alcohol is visibly indistinguishable from normal alcohol.

Fake alcohol in plastic bottles discovered by law enforcement agencies
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“More than 3,000 empty plastic bottles and devices for the production, storage, filling and subsequent packaging of alcohol-containing products in large quantities were confiscated,” said a report by the law enforcement authorities.

The fatalities are less than a year since seven people died in Russia’s Far Eastern Republic of Yakutia in November after consuming diluted hand sanitizer.

Consumption of spirits and household products containing alcohol is widespread in poorer regions of Russia and is blamed for a large number of alcohol-related deaths.

Murat Berekeshov, 41, died of alcohol poisoning
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The governor of the region, Denis Pasler, urged the local population to refrain from buying alcohol.

In 2006, Russia declared a state of emergency because of the deaths from consuming illegal vodka.

The Independent reported that “hospitals are grappling with a wave of alcohol poisoning” in several regions.

They quoted radio station Ekho Moskvy as reportedly saying the casualty numbers “look more like something out of a small war”.

The Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, said in a letter to then Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov that 42,000 Russians died of alcohol poisoning every year.

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