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Russia to form federal alcohol regulator - first deputy PM

MOSCOW, November 12 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian government plans to establish a federal alcohol regulator and set minimum wholesale and retail prices for products, a first deputy prime minister said on Wednesday.

Viktor Zubkov said the move was aimed at "stabilizing the market," adding that he had instructed the departments concerned to draft a presidential decree within the next three days for submission to the government.

The new regulator will prepare the legal framework and enforce licensing control policies, Zubkov said.

He added that the Finance Ministry and the Economic Development Ministry and the Federal Tax Service have been charged with preparing calculations in an effort to switch to a single ethyl alcohol excise rate.

The current excise on products with an alcohol content of more than 9% is 173.50 rubles ($6.30) per liter. The Russian Finance Ministry proposes to increase the figure to 185 rubles in 2009 and to 196 rubles in 2010.

Zubkov also said the government intended to bring administrative or criminal action against illegal alcohol sales.

Deaths from alcohol poisoning are frequent in Russia and the average Russian drinks a record 17 liters of spirits a year, with some 2 billion liters of alcohol being consumed in Russia annually.

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