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    Two million teenagers in Russia illiterate - interior minister

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    MOSCOW, January 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's interior minister said Wednesday that one of his ministry's most important tasks is protecting the rights and freedoms of minors.

    Rashid Nurgaliyev told journalists that there are some 700,000 orphans in Russia, that two million teenagers are illiterate, and that more than six million minors live in socially precarious conditions.

    He said prevention of juvenile crime remains a priority of his ministry.

    "The significance of this work can hardly be overestimated, as children are the future of our country, the promise of its economic and social prosperity," Nurgaliyev said.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said in December that the country's population, which was approximately 142 million in 2006, had been shrinking steadily over the past 13 years.

    "In these years, the death rate has exceeded the birth rate by 11.2 million people," the president said.

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