Russian President Vladimir Putin Felice Calabro'/AP/Press Association Images

Vladimir Putin has canned holidays and wants to cap vodka prices as the economy collapses

Government ministers have been ordered to keep working through the New Year.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR Putin has cancelled New Year holidays and told officials to put a lid on rising vodka prices amid rampant inflation in the embattled economy.

The country’s leader moved to scrap any time off over the January holidays – when Russians celebrate the New Year and Orthodox Christmas – for government ministers in the face of the financial crisis.

He told a government meeting, which was broadcast on TV, that the leaders shouldn’t take time off over traditional break.

“For the government, for your agencies we cannot afford this long holiday, at least this year – you know what I mean,” Putin said.

The Russian economy has been hit with the triple-whammy of falling oil prices, which have hit its export-dependent industries hard, Western sanctions and the general Europe-wide financial malaise.

The rouble had shed over half its value against the US dollar this year, although it has rebounded slightly from the depths it reached in the middle of this month.

Expensive vodka leading to black-market boom

Earlier, Putin told government and regional leaders that expensive vodka would make citizens turn to black-market spirits – which were more likely to damage peoples’ health, Reuters reported.

The overshoot of vodka prices leads only to increasing consumption of bootleg (spirits),” he said. ”I think the relevant structures (government bodies) should think of that.”

Since last year, the government-set minimum price for vodka has risen 30%, while Russian economic officials have warned the inflation rate could hit 11% before the end of 2014.

- with AP

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