20:33 GMT +318 January 2019
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    Russians rich and poor

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    MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Vasily Kononenko.) President Vladimir Putin will leave his post in three years, no matter how many people want to amend the constitution or find some other smart way of prolonging his tenure.

    This is the common opinion of all serious political scientists and sources in the corridors of power I have talked with of late. They said that Putin would not be able to change his decision, which he has made public, because to him as a military man this would amount to violating an oath.

    If we take this as the point of departure in the final phase of the president's term, the logical conclusion will be that he will do his best to use the remaining time to make a mark in Russia's history.

    The goal of Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin, was to destroy the totalitarian system and make its reconstruction impossible. The goal of Vladimir Putin is to defeat two of Russia's major evils: disintegration and poverty.

    Putin encountered the danger of disintegration as soon as he came to power; it is not a danger any more. But poverty and the continued rapid stratification of society are viewed as serious threats to Russia's future.

    This is why the president has been working hard since his spring address to the nation to mobilize all resources of the state to ensure a more fair distribution of the national wealth. But he will not change the life of Russians, especially poor ones, quickly because the state is not the strongest side in this battle.

    Following the announcement of social projects and the allocation of 115 billion rubles ($405 million) for their implementation, President Putin has instructed the government to submit in October a comprehensive plan for spending these funds on health care, education, science and the development of the housing industry. His next move was a meeting with his plenipotentiary envoys, whom he ordered to create a system of effective monitoring. He wants this money to help Russia's numerous poor.

    According to the Institute of Social Projects and ROMIR Monitoring, about 60% of Russian adults are poor. The incomes of Russia's "lower classes" do not exceed $110 a month, which is barely enough for living from hand to mouth. The bulk of Russia's poor live in the countryside and work at state-owned enterprises. Pensioners are the poorest.

    Next come those who earn a subsistence wage. The average wage reached an historic high of $303 (8,655 rubles) this June, according to the Economic Development and Trade Ministry. Though barely enough for a modest life, it is much higher than in the neighboring countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) but is extremely small compared to European wages. In addition, inflation eats up to a half of wage growth.

    Russia's middle class (25% of the economically active Russians) stands on the next step of the social ladder with a monthly wage of upwards of 20,000 rubles ($700).

    And lastly, Russia has a solid upper class (0.4% of population), which is growing year by year. This category is fiercely disliked and specialists fear that the continued rapid growth of millionaires' incomes, which are growing at twice the speed with which the Russian poor are getting out of their financial abyss, can provoke a social outcry.

    Will Putin attain his main goal of defeating poverty without pushing the economy into an inflation nosedive? The answer will become clear in a year or two, when large-scale financing of major social projects begins in Russia.

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