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Russia's population down 0.17% in 2007 to 142 mln

MOSCOW, February 21 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's population declined by 237,800 (0.17%) last year to reach 142 million as of January 1, 2008, the State Statistics Service announced on Thursday.

The number of deaths during 2007 was 477,700 greater than the number of births. In 2006 the figure was 687,100.

Russia's government has launched several programs aimed at tackling the acute demographic problem, including a system of incentive payments for second births. The United Nations predicted that Russia's population could fall by 30% by the middle of the century.

The statistics service said that last year the mortality rate in Russia declined 4% compared to 2006, reaching some 2 million deaths, while the birth rate grew 8.3% year-on-year to an estimated 1.6 million live births.

Fifty percent of deaths, or 1.1 million, were due to cardiovascular diseases. Alcohol abuse, road accidents and cancer claimed around 500,000 lives in 2007.

An influx of migrants compensated for the population loss: the number of migrants increased up to 274,000, with the bulk of migrants coming from former Soviet republics.

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