The mayor of a Siberian city declared a state of emergency as the death toll mounted after dozens of people drank body lotion containing methyl alcohol, or methanol.
The federal Investigative Committee said on December 19 that 25 people died after drinking the lotion, called Boyaryshnik (Hawthorn), despite a warning on the label saying it cannot be consumed internally.
The committee’s local branch in Irkutsk later said the death toll had risen to 33.
Irkutsk Mayor Dmitry Berdnikov announced a state of emergency in the city 4,200 kilometers east of Moscow on December 19 and banned retail sales of all liquids that contain alcohol but are not intended for internal consumption.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the poisonings “a terrible tragedy that requires close attention,” and said that President Vladimir Putin had been informed.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that Boyaryshnik and similar liquids containing alcohol should be removed from shop shelves or even banned, but he did not appear to have issued a formal order for either of those measures.
The Investigative Committee said the bath lotion contained methanol, which can be fatal if consumed internally, instead of regular alcohol, or ethanol.
It said seven people suspected of selling the lotion have been detained, and more than 2,000 containers containing over 500 liters of the lotion confiscated.
Poisonings with surrogate alcohol are frequent in Russia, where people sometimes drink substances that contain alcohol and are cheaper than alcoholic beverages.
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