Russia: Expert on ‘attempt to restore demographic crisis’
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Dr Jenny Mathers, Russian politics and security expert, spoke to broadcaster Henry Bonsu on Times Radio about the new Russian reward scheme, known as Mother Heroine, that Putin has announced as part of measure to replenish a dwindling population as a result of the pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine. According to Dr Mathers, Putin has been on record saying that people who have large families are “more patriotic” and will feel more connected to “mother Russia”. It comes as Russia reported its highest number of daily coronavirus cases since March this year, while estimates of how many soldiers have died in Ukraine are nearing 50,000.
Mr Bonsu said: “A soviet era award for women who have ten or more children, it is called the Mother Heroine. It’s an attempt to restore Russia’s demographic crisis that has been deepened by the war in Ukraine.
“Under Putin’s decree, women will get a one off payment of 1 million roubles, about £13,500, after their tenth child reaches its first birthday on the condition that the other nine are all still alive. This sounds desperate. Is it?”
Dr Mathers said: “It is, actually. It is pretty desperate. I mean, Russia has had difficulties with demographics, trying to get enough people to populate the country really since the 1990s off and on.
“Covid, in particular, in addition to the war in Ukraine, has really set Russia’s demographics back very, very significantly.
“So, this is obviously an attempt to encourage Russian women, or inspire them, to have more babies and to have really big families.
“And Putin is on record now as having said that people from bigger families are sort of more patriotic. They feel that love for mother Russia even more than other people do.
“But who can imagine raising 10 children for £13,500. Where are they all going to live in the meantime? There are many many economic, social and political problems in Russia.
Russia reported 33,106 new daily coronavirus cases on Wednesday, authorities said, the highest figure since mid-March this year.
Sixty-three people in Russia died of coronavirus over the past day, the country’s taskforce against the virus said.
Russia said in early July that it was ending all restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19, including the requirement to wear masks, citing a steady decline in deaths from the virus.
However, it did not rule out re-introducing restrictive measures if the situation deteriorates.
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And while Russia has made the sharing of wartime casualties illegal – it is a state secret the publication of which is punishable by up to seven years in prison – the latest daily estimates from Ukraine suggest that around 43,000 Russian soldiers have died during the conflict.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which provides a daily running tally on social media, put the number of enemy “liquidated” at around 43,000 as of August 11.
Last week, following a deadly strike on a Russian base in Crimea that is believed to have killed a number of Russians, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recited those casualty figures, saying that if it was not enough to convince Putin of the need to withdraw then “more fighting is needed”.
He said: “If almost 43,000 dead Russian soldiers do not convince the Russian leadership that they need to find a way out of the war, then more fighting is needed, more results are needed to convince.”
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