. The Russian government approved a number of measures January 27 aimed at tightening the state’s monopoly over the production and sale of alcohol. In force since czarist times, the monopoly was briefly relaxed in the early reform period but is now being reimposed. Officials announced that a package of presidential decrees and cabinet orders would aim to protect legitimate domestic producers — "who never fail to pay federal taxes" — and shut down the moonshiners. A presidential order additionally subjects Ukrainian-made vodka to a new excise tax. (13)
Deputy Economics Minister Yakov Urinson said imported liquor should be allowed to constitute no more than 10 to 20 percent of the domestic liquor market. The approximate 50/50 present balance between imports and exports means that liquor sale taxes amount to less than 1 percent of Russian GDP, as opposed to 4 percent in 1989, Urinson added. He estimated that the new measures would add as much as two trillion rubles a month to the federal budget. Although imports of Ukrainian vodka have been affected first, Western producers also expect to suffer. Earlier this month, an official of the Brussels-based European confederation of spirits producers wrote to the Financial Times deploring Russia’s "protectionist and restrictive measures [which]… directly contravene the provisions of the recently concluded European Union/Russia partnership and co-operation agreement and the requirements of the World Trade Organization, which Russia aspires to join." (14)
Cossacks Want Legal Status.