Russia's Government has imposed a minimum price on vodka in an attempt to curb harmful drinking by flushing out the bottom end of the market.

A floor price of RUB89 ($3) per 0.5 litres of vodka was introduced on 1 January as part of Russia president Dmitry Medvedev's promised crackdown on excess alcohol consumption.

Only the very cheapest vodka brands will be affected by the minimum price. For example, bottles of premium Russian Standard vodka do not sell for less than RUB350 in Russia.

One Russian industry source told just-drinks that it is "nearly impossible to produce anything approaching good vodka for RUB90".

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 last year. It named vodka as the main culprit.

President Medvedev has reportedly described Russia's relationship with alcohol as a "national disaster".

However, there will be fears that setting a minimum price on drink could foster black market sales and so hamper the Russian Government's long-running battle against illicit vodka production in the country.

From 1 January, Russia has also tripled excise duty on beer.