Russia’s Muslim Chechnya region is planning to ban the sale of non-alcoholic energy drinks such as Red Bull to under 18s, saying they are un-Islamic and dangerous, health officials said on Monday.
The ban would be the latest restriction from authorities in Chechnya, where shops can only sell alcohol during a small morning time frame, eateries are shut during the Ramadan fasting month and women must wear headscarves in state buildings.
“Energy drinks are comparable to beer,” the deputy minister of health in Chechnya, Rukman Bartiyev, told Reuters, adding that they were harmful to health.
The proposed ban was met with praise from the more conservative sectors of society, but angered ordinary Chechens who are growing increasingly frustrated at laws that only apply to Chechnya and sometimes contradict the Russian constitution.
“There are just too many restrictions lately. We are building a small Islamic state in Russia that looks like Dubai,” said a Grozny resident who gave her name only as Aset, 41.
A decade after Moscow drove separatists out of power in the second of two wars since the 1991 Soviet collapse, the Kremlin relies heavily on Chechnya’s strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov to keep insurgents in check and maintain a shaky peace.
But critics of the hardliner say he runs the republic of 1.1 million as a tiny fiefdom, consolidating power by leading a violent crackdown on opponents and imposing his own vision of Islam, leading analysts to warn that Chechnya could move to autonomy once again.