Dozens dead or hospitalised after drinking vodka containing toxic ingredient

Three people have been arrested as police said it is “a miracle” more people weren’t killed by the dodgy alcohol in Orsk, Orenburg region, Russia, where bootleg vodka has been a scourge for years

Another person of interest is questioned by law enforcement over the deaths

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

Three people have been arrested as police said it is “a miracle” that more people were not killed by the dodgy alcohol, as the seller pleaded his innocence.

A further 18 people have been hospitalised.

Among those killed by the fake vodka were Murat Berekeshov, 41, and his wife Aislu, 39, and – according to reports – their five children have now been orphaned.

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

A person of interest in the case of the deadly alcohol poisoning in Orenburg region



Local man Dmitry Granchenko, 42, was fighting for his life after drinking the counterfeit alcohol.

A seller of the deadly drink Ildar Suyunshalinov said: “I bought the alcohol at the Orsk wholesale base. I did not know it was lethal.”

Police said it is a “miracle” that more of the bootleg booze was not sold causing more fatalities.

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

Boxes with counterfeit alcohol discovered by law enforcement in Orenburg region



The ages of the dead were from 36 to 72, said reports.

A major criminal investigation is underway with two men aged 60 and 28, and a woman, 47, detained.

Later it was reported that two more men and one woman were held in connection with the poisoning.

More than 1,000 bottles have been confiscated, although the fake alcohol is visibly indistinguishable from normal alcohol.

Counterfeit alcohol discovered by law enforcement in plastic bottles



“More than 3,000 empty plastic bottles and equipment for the production, storage, bottling and subsequent packaging of alcohol-containing products in large volumes were seized,” said a law enforcement report.

The fatalities come less than a year after seven people in Russia’s Far East republic of Yakutia died in November after consuming diluted hand sanitiser.

The consumption of spirits and household products containing alcohol is fairly common in Russia’s poorer regions and is blamed for a large number of alcohol-related deaths.

Murat Berekeshov, 41, died because of alcohol poisoning



The region’s governor Denis Pasler issued an urgent appeal to the local population to refrain from buying alcohol.

In 2006 Russia declared a state of emergency because of deaths from the consumption of bootleg vodka.

The Independent reported that in several regions “hospitals are struggling to cope with a wave of alcohol poisonings.”

They cited radio station Ekho Moskvy who reportedly said the casualty figures “look more like those from a small war.”

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

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