MOSCOW Dec 19 At least twenty-five residents of
the Siberian city of Irkutsk have died after drinking bath oil,
hoping it would give them the same sensation as alcohol, Russian
investigators said on Monday.
Use of counterfeit or surrogate alcohol is rife in Russia's
regions, where two years of economic pain have pushed more
people below the poverty line, though the death toll from this
latest incident is unusually high.
Investigators in Irkutsk, a city of around 6,000 people
around 2,600 miles (4184.29 km) east of Moscow, said in a
statement they had detained two people suspected of distributing
the bath oil.
The product had a warning on its label saying it should not
be swallowed, but investigators said people had ignored that and
consumed it as if it was alcohol. The bath oil contained
methylated spirit, they said.
It was unclear whether those selling the product were
marketing it as a cheaper substitute for alcoholic spirits such
"Forty two people have been admitted to medical institutions
of whom 25 have died," investigators said in the statement.
"Investigators and the police are conducting searches at
markets where the liquid was first obtained. More than 100
points of sale have been identified."
The Interfax news agency said the death toll had been
revised up to 33 since the release of the initial statement.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told a government meeting he
wanted to look at banning products that could cause so many
deaths and said the country's criminal code was being amended to
toughen the punishment for people caught selling them.
Investigators, who said they had opened a criminal case into
the poisonings, said they had confiscated more than 2,000 litres
Stanislav Zubovsky, a local prosecutor, told the Interfax
news agency that police were continuing to search residential
areas and that "the number (of deaths) will increase further."
(Reporting by Peter Hobson and Elena Fabrichnaya in Moscow;
Editing by Andrew Osborn)