The Russian authorities may move to take control of the sale of high-alcohol beverages, according to press reports. News agency Prime-Tass said on Friday (28 January) that the Agriculture Ministry wants to put the sale of "hard alcoholic drinks" under a state monopoly. The news agency cited Vladimir Kaishev, deputy chief of the ministry's federal agency on agriculture in its report.

The ministry is now preparing the necessary "mechanisms" to introduce the monopoly, Kaishev told Prime-Tass. A law on the state regulation of hard alcohol sales, and products containing hard alcohol, would be approved later this year, Kaishev added.

Earlier in the week, Gazeta newspaper reported that Russia's Agriculture Minister, Alexei Gordeyev, wants the Government to create a state monopoly for the distribution of hard alcohol in the country.

According to the sources, Gordeyev believes that a state monopoly on the sale of hard alcohol would help the government strengthen its control over "grey" sales of alcohol, which now amount to around US$1.1bn a year, the newspaper said.