Russian authorities have carried out a series of raids at bars and restaurants in Moscow airports in a bid to stop the sale of hard alcohol there, prosecutors said on Friday.
The Russian Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement that inspectors had found illegal alcohol sales in Moscow's three major airports -- where hard alcohol has long been sold openly.
"The inspection found that commercial organisations are crudely violating the law by selling spirits containing more than 15 percent ethyl alcohol in international airports through their stores, restaurants and other eating establishments," it said.
Earlier Friday, the Vedomosti business newspaper reported that officials had been quietly carrying out inspections of airport restaurants and bars since early September, citing sources in the alcohol industry.
The establishments were told that under Russian law they may not sell hard alcohol in places with dense concentrations of people or potential sources of danger, a category that includes airports, Vedomosti wrote.
Though the law has long been on the books, it had previously been ignored in airports and it was unclear why it was suddenly being enforced.
"According to the sources who spoke about the inspections, prosecutors would like to limit the sale of spirits in duty free stores, but so far have not found a basis for this," Vedomosti said.
Excessive consumption of alcohol has often led to troublesome passengers causing problems aboard Russian flights.
In November 2008, a drunken Russian passenger threatened to hijack a flight from Cuba to Moscow and had to be subdued by the crew.
Alcohol abuse is a grave problem in Russia which kills some 500,000 Russians annually, according to a report published in June by the Public Chamber, a body of experts that advises the Kremlin.
In August, President Dmitry Medvedev called for the government to implement tougher measures against alcoholism, such as reducing the maximum size of containers in which beer can be sold.