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Putin vows to boost Russian population

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Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday vowed to reverse Russia’s demographic decline and boost its population to 154 million, as he ramped up his re-election campaign in the face of protests.

In a new campaign article addressing his core constituency including employees of state companies and blue-collar workers, Putin also promised salary hikes to teachers and doctors and pledged to create a more just state.

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Putin reeled off a list of social policies that he said could reverse a demographic decline and boost Russia’s current population that has now dwindled to almost 143 million.

“In a global sense we are facing the risk of turning into an ’empty space’ whose fate will not be decided by us,” Putin said in an article published on his campaign website and mass circulation newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

“If we manage to formulate and implement an effective complex people-saving strategy, Russia’s population will go up to 154 million.”

“The historic price of the choice between action and inaction is nearly 50 million human lives over the next 40 years,” he said in the piece, his fifth campaign article since January.

After serving two consecutive presidential terms between 2000 and 2008 and a term as prime minister, Putin is seeking a third term in the March 4 presidential election.

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He is however struggling with the worst legitimacy crisis of his 12-year rule, with tens of thousands taking to the streets in December and earlier this month.

Putin said one in eight Russians still lived below the poverty line, adding that the gap between the rich and the poor was too wide.

He said that by 2018 the income of university teachers, professors and doctors will stand at 200 percent of the national average, also promising 5,000 ruble ($167) stipend hikes to students.

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“Every ruble going into the social sphere should ‘create justice,'” Putin wrote. “The just arrangement of our society and economy is the main condition of our sustainable development over the next year.”

Putin has written four articles since January on subjects including Russia’s politics, economy and illegal immigration, although he has refused to take part in televised debates with other candidates.

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Trump administration preparing criminal indictment of Venezuela’s first lady: report

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The Trump administration is preparing criminal charges against the spouse of a foreign leader at odds with the administration, according to a new report.

"The United States is preparing to charge the wife of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in coming months with crimes that could include drug trafficking and corruption," Reuters reported Wednesday, citing "four people familiar with the case."

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Moscow to ease lockdown from Monday as pandemic stabilizes

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Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Wednesday announced an easing of the Russian capital's lockdown starting June 1 after the Kremlin said the coronavirus pandemic had passed its peak in the country.

"Today we can already talk about the next steps out of the crisis situation," Sobyanin told President Vladimir Putin during a televised video conference.

"I propose from June 1 to reopen not only food retail but all non-food retail."

The mayor also called for the reopening of retail services where there is minimal contact with the customer, listing dry cleaners, laundry services and repair workshops.

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‘Incel’ violence is a form of extremism — it’s time we treated it as a security threat

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Last week, a 17-year-old boy in Toronto was charged with an act of terrorism in the alleged killing of a woman with a machete – the first time such a charge has been brought in a case involving “incel” ideology.

Also last week, a 20-year-old man who self-identified as an “incel” – short for “involuntary celibate” – allegedly went on a shooting spree in Arizona, targeting couples to express his anger over the fact women had rejected him.

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