Watch: Ukrainian Officials Dig Up Underground Alcohol Pipeline

Ukrainian bootleggers planned to import alcohol from Moldova using an underground pipeline.

Moscow, RUSSIAN FEDERATION:  TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY VICTORIA LOGUINOVA This undated file picture, shows Russians purchasing vodka from a street kiosk in Moscow. A reform aimed at protecting Russian consumers from substandard alcohol is turning Russia into a country where even vodka, the nation's drink of choice, is becoming scarce, experts warned. "Russia could become a country without alcohol by September," said Boris Titov, head of the trade association Business Russia. AFP PHOTO  ALEXANDER NEMENOV  (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Moscow, RUSSIAN FEDERATION: TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY VICTORIA LOGUINOVA This undated file picture, shows Russians purchasing vodka from a street kiosk in Moscow. A reform aimed at protecting Russian consumers from substandard alcohol is turning Russia into a country where even vodka, the nation's drink of choice, is becoming scarce, experts warned. "Russia could become a country without alcohol by September," said Boris Titov, head of the trade association Business Russia. AFP PHOTO ALEXANDER NEMENOV (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Moscow, RUSSIAN FEDERATION: TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY VICTORIA LOGUINOVA This undated file picture, shows Russians purchasing vodka from a street kiosk in Moscow. A reform aimed at protecting Russian consumers from substandard alcohol is turning Russia into a country where even vodka, the nation's drink of choice, is becoming scarce, experts warned. "Russia could become a country without alcohol by September," said Boris Titov, head of the trade association Business Russia. AFP PHOTO ALEXANDER NEMENOV (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Moldova, home to the world’s biggest drinkers, is funneling alcohol into Ukraine, home of the world’s riskiest drinkers, through a literal underground pipeline. Ukrainian security service agents posted video Tuesday of the pipeline’s discovery, about a foot below ground level.

The security service told the Associated Press that the bootleggers had rented a house near the Dniester River and had started laying the pipeline along the riverbank.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, alcohol consumption has grown explosively in former Soviet countries. A 2014 World Health Organization report noted that while alcohol caused about 5.9 percent of deaths worldwide, people in Europe died from alcohol consumption at more than twice that rate -- the highest of any region in the world. This high alcohol-related death rate was mostly driven by Eastern Europe.

Moldova, home to the world’s biggest drinkers, is funneling alcohol into Ukraine, home of the world’s riskiest drinkers, through a literal underground pipeline. Ukrainian security service agents posted video Tuesday of the pipeline’s discovery, about a foot below ground level.

The security service told the Associated Press that the bootleggers had rented a house near the Dniester River and had started laying the pipeline along the riverbank.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, alcohol consumption has grown explosively in former Soviet countries. A 2014 World Health Organization report noted that while alcohol caused about 5.9 percent of deaths worldwide, people in Europe died from alcohol consumption at more than twice that rate — the highest of any region in the world. This high alcohol-related death rate was mostly driven by Eastern Europe.

The same report said that Russians and Ukrainians engaged in the riskiest drinking. Both countries have a high prevalence of bootleg alcohol.

In Russia, people have even fed alcohol to captive animals: two bears became a cause of international concern when they were kept in cruel conditions and constantly fed beer.

Alcohol is considered a leading reason that life expectancy in Eastern Europe is so low. In Ukraine, where homemade moonshine is sometimes used as currency in more rural areas,

life expectancy for men is just 66 years.

In March, Ukraine raised alcohol excise taxes by 50 percent in an attempt to bring in more state revenue, which may give potential bootleggers more reason to illegally import booze.

Watch Ukrainian security service members dig up the pipeline:

 

Photo credit: ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images

Megan Alpert is a fellow at Foreign Policy. Her previous bylines have included The Guardian, Guernica Daily, and Earth Island Journal. Twitter: @megan_alpert

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