Two people have been arrested after 18 people died as a result of drinking contaminated alcohol in the Russian city of Yekaterinaberg.
Russia’s Investigative Committee determined that the victims had drunk alcohol that contained methanol – a poisonous alcohol that is typically used for industrial purposes – purchased in Yekaterinaberg between 7 and 14 October.
Because methanol is colourless and smells similar to ethanol (alcohol contained in beverages) it can be very different to tell the difference between them. But ingesting as little as 10ml of methanol can cause blindness, and 30ml can prove fatal.
The committee confirmed that a number of witnesses had already been questioned, forensic tests had been ordered and the crime scene had been searched.
Valery Gorelykh, the spokesperson for the Russian Interior Ministry’s branch for the region told reporters that authorities from the regional economic crime and anti-corruption department had identified and apprehended two suspects – both local residents born in 1978 and 1967.
He added: “Police officers are looking into the suspects’ connections and into how long they had been involved in illegal business. They are also establishing the exact number of victims”.
An aide to the prosecutor for the Sverdlovsk Region told Tass News Agency that the prosecutor’s office was demanding that local marketplaces be inspected to determine whether any more counterfeit alcohol was being sold.
This marks the second mass-poisoning event related to contaminated alcohol in Russia this month. In early October, 34 people in southwest Russia died as a result of ingesting illegal alcohol; in this case, authorities seized 2,000 bottles of alcohol found to contain methanol, and detained 10 people for their role in the production and sale of illegal alcohol.