MOSCOW - 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. Putin reeled off a list of social policies that he said could reverse a demographic decline and boost Russia’s current population that has dwindled to nearly 143 million and which he said risked falling to just 107 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. “If we manage to formulate and implement an effective complex people-saving strategy, Russia’s population will go up to 154 million,” he said. By contrast, he said, if the authorities do nothing to combat the demographic crisis, the country’s population would fall to 107 million by 2050. “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 presidential terms between 2000 and 2008 and a term as prime minister, Putin is seeking a third term in the Kremlin in the March 4 election. He is however facing the worst legitimacy crisis of his 12-year rule, with tens of thousands taking to the streets in protests since December.