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Vladimir Putin says Russia's population rising

A mother tends her baby in St Petersburg as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaks on TV (file)
Vladimir Putin announced the news in a televised government meeting

Russia's population statistics are rising for the first time since 1995, says Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Mr Putin said that for the past five years the number of deaths had declined, while births had risen.

He said statistics to be released shortly would show life-expectancy had almost reached the age of 69.

As president, Mr Putin brought in policies to stop population decline, which has been blamed on emigration, alcoholism, and poor health care.

'Symbolic amount'

"We can say with a high degree of confidence that Russia will register a growth in population for the first time since 1995," said Mr Putin at an end-of-year government meeting broadcast on state television.

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the total anticipated population growth in 2009 was only about 20,000 - but he said this was a "symbolic" amount.

Health Minister Tatyana Golikova said the first month of population growth in 15 years came in August this year, when the birth rate increased by 1,000.

Figures published in November said Russia's population stood at 141.9 million.



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