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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Russia plans to woo back emigres
An old Russian woman eats a charity lunch in Saratov (file picture)
The post-Soviet economic crisis hit the population hard
Officials in Russia say they hope to attract tens of thousands of Russians living abroad through a state programme encouraging voluntary resettlement.

President Vladimir Putin issued a decree launching the programme in June.

It aims to ease Russia's demographic crisis, caused by low birth rates and high mortality.

Officials in several Siberian regions including Khabarovsk and Krasnoyarsk are drafting plans to accommodate greater numbers of Russian immigrants.

Relocation perks

The seven-year federal programme on assisting "the voluntary resettlement to the Russian Federation of compatriots living abroad" was launched by President Putin on 22 June.

It requires some regional authorities to submit their action plans to the government in Moscow by 1 September.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation
Mr Putin said Russia was shrinking by 700,000 people a year

The programme offers material and social benefits to those willing to return to Russia, including loans to help them start new lives and unemployment benefits for up to six months.

It says that the resettlement in Russia's border regions, where the population is falling, should be considered a top priority.

However, the programme gives a vague definition of compatriots, describing them as people "brought up in the traditions of Russian culture, who speak Russian and do not want to lose links with Russia".

The programme targets primarily people living in the former Soviet republics, experts say.

President Putin said earlier this year that Russia's population decline - about 700,000 a year - was the biggest problem the state was facing.

In an annual address to the nation, he described the demographic situation as "critical".

Russia's population is estimated to be just under 143 million people.

Country profile: Russia
26 Apr 06 |  Country profiles
Russia looks to its fathers
31 Mar 06 |  Europe
Russia 'needs more immigration'
24 Feb 05 |  Europe

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