15 die in Russia from drinking illegal alcohol, spurring call for state monopoly on production

Russian investigators say 15 people have died in the past two weeks from drinking illegally produced alcoholic beverages, including five in a Siberian town who drank fake American whiskey.

The spokesman for Russia's main investigative agency says the deaths in several locations around the country show the need for alcohol production to be put back under a state monopoly and for tightening control over imports.

Vladimir Markin was quoted by the Tass news agency as saying Monday: "In our country the introduction of such a measure like a monopoly on the production of ethyl alcohol and perhaps on all alcoholic production, would significantly safeguard our citizens and increase revenues for the state budget."

Russia is struggling to balance its budget because of the falling price of oil, its main export.