Russian Police Arrest 11 After Bath Product Kills 61 Drinkers

Russian drinker
A man drinks antiseptic alcohol on a street in central Moscow. Household and pharmaceutical products are a dangerous but cheap alternative for alcohol among Russia's least affluent. Thomas Peter/Reuters

Russian police have detained 11 people in Siberia after at least 61 died in the Russian city of Irkutsk—apparently from drinking bath essence that was sold as a substitute for alcohol.

Since Sunday, dozens have been reported dead after drinking the substance, which was sold as Boyaryshnik, or hawthorne extract, but was reportedly contaminated with antifreeze. The incident prompted authorities in the Siberian city of Irkutsk to call for a state of emergency on Monday.

The regional Ministry of Health said Wednesday that out of the 106 people reportedly poisoned by the substance, 61 had died, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

"As part of the investigation, 11 people have been detained,” Karina Golovacheva, spokeswoman for the local Investigative Committee told RIA. “They are all separate entrepreneurs and sellers,” she said.

Around 40 of the surviving victims have been hospitalized. The majority of the victims to do not appear to have been drinking together.

The Irkutsk mayor’s office announced on Wednesday that 12 tons of fake alcohol had been seized as part of the investigation, including five crates of counterfeit vodka and 10 crates of Boyaryshnik.