MOSCOW, February 14 (RIA Novosti) - The infant mortality rate in Russia was 8.7 per 1,000 newborns last year, Health Ministry department chief Yelena Baibarina said on Thursday.
“I have cited data from the Russian Federal State Statistics Service. During the 12 months of 2012, infant mortality rate reached 8.7,” she told a congress of pediatricians.
Infant mortality in 2011 was 7.1 per 1,000 newborns.
The infant mortality rate varied in different parts of the country, Baibarina added without providing specific figures.
Baibarina’s statement comes on the heels of the Labor and Social Protection Ministry’s report earlier last week, saying that deaths exceeded births in Russia by more than 2,500 in 2012, underscoring that natural population growth remains an elusive goal despite officials' earlier expectations.
During the 12 months of 2012, over 1,896,000 children were born, 102,400 (5.7 percent) more than in 2011 - the highest figure since 1990, the ministry said (it was not immediately clear whether the ministry meant this was the highest growth rate or the highest increase in absolute terms).
At the same time, deaths numbered more than 1,898,000 in 2012, down 26,200 (1.4 percent) on 2011.
In the first 11 months of 2012 the ministry had recorded a natural population growth of more than 4,500, which led President Vladimir Putin to heap praise on the country’s demographic programs in his December State of the Nation address.
He warned, however, that failing to tackle the country’s high death rate, especially among men, would have disastrous consequences for the economy and for the country as a whole. He targeted smoking, drug use and alcoholism as particular scourges that "prematurely take away hundreds of thousands of our citizens' lives each year."
Population decline has been one of the most significant social issues Russia has faced since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite large-scale labor migration into the country, Russia's population has decreased by about two million over the past 10 years, from around 145 million in 2002 to about 143 million in 2012, the latest census figures show.
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If attempts to drag Russia into a direct military conflict in Ukraine are successful, it would be a catastrophe for Russia comparable to the 1979-1989 Afghan war. There is no direct evidence that the US is trying to bring about a second Afghan war, but indirect evidence abounds.