Russia's Government appears to be turning up the pressure on drinks firms, with president Dmitry Medvedev reportedly labelling the country's relationship with alcohol as a "national disaster".

Medvedev's comments came during a meeting with senior Government officials last week, according to a report by Reuters, citing notes of the meeting supplied by the Kremlin.

The president's reported outburst is a further sign that alcoholic drinks makers in Russia face a Government crackdown.

There has been speculation in recent weeks that Medvedev's Government is looking to raise tax and tighten controls on selling and marketing alcohol.

Russia's Brewers' Union last week held a press conference to warn the Government against sharp tax rises on beer

Up to 600,000 Russians die from alcohol-related causes every year, according to an article published in The Lancet medical journal on 27 June. Russian men have a life expectancy of 59 years, compared to 76 in UK, with alcohol believed to be the major factor in this difference, the article said.

Despite the figures, Medvedev was reported by the RIA Novosti newswire as saying that there would be no "stupid bans" to tackle alcohol abuse.