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Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 15:59 GMT
Russia braces for population disaster
homeless
Poor living standards are blamed for the problem
The Russian cabinet has approved proposals for a range of measures aimed at stemming the country's catastrophic population decline.


It is a problem of whether our state will develop successfully or unfavourably

Prime Minister Kasyanov
On Thursday it discussed plans to encourage women to have more children, prevent illness and foster immigration.

Critics have said the proposals are reminiscent of Soviet planning and filled with empty promises.

Russia's population has been falling dramatically since the end of communism, spurred by heavy drinking, poor nutrition and health care as well as environmental pollution and low safety standards.

A report produced for the cabinet said the population fell by 0.5% in 1999 and that it could be down 2.8 million by 2005.

Russia's northern regions have suffered especially badly - the arctic Chukotka region's population has fallen by 50% over the past 10 years.

National security threat

"The decrease of the able-bodied population of the Russian Federation is not just a social problem, it is a problem of whether our state will develop successfully or unfavourably," said Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

President Putin has repeatedly declared the fight against population decline one of his top priorities, saying the current situation could jeopardise national security.

The number of men dying from alcoholism is reported to be on the rise. In 1999 male life expectancy was already under 60 years.

The problem may be compounded if, as is predicted, the Aids virus takes hold and causes further population decline.

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13 Jun 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
A dying population
03 May 00 | Europe
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22 Apr 00 | Europe
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