Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered Russian mothers an extraordinary cash bonus if they have 10 or more children, reviving a Soviet-era incentive as the nation of 145 million plans for the future.
The honorary Mother Heroine award — which also offers social benefits — was first established by Communist dictator Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union. The initial accolade was handed to about 400,000 citizens, according to Russian media.
Putin’s edition of the award will offer citizens a one-off payment of 1 million rubles ($16,667 USD) after their 10th child’s first birthday.
Mothers will only be eligible for the significant bonus — which is more than the average Russian yearly salary of roughly 750,000 rubles — if all other nine children have survived.
Kristin Roth-Ey, an expert on Slavonic and East European Studies said the “honour” was Putin’s attempt to bolster the population and encourage a particular strain of nationalism from the population, who have for months now been forced to battle the economic impact of his war with Ukraine.
“It was about service to the motherland,” she said via the Washington Post. “(It is) obviously a conscious echo of the Stalinist past.”
Roth-Ey said Stalin’s award was conceived as the Soviet Union attempted to “plan for postwar reconstruction” and support families as “the core institution of Soviet society”, following the death of countless million working age males in World War II.
Putin on Tuesday accused Washington of seeking to prolong the conflict in Ukraine and of fuelling conflicts elsewhere in the world, including with the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
“The situation in Ukraine shows that the US is trying to prolong this conflict. And they act in exactly the same way, fuelling the potential for conflict in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” Putin said in televised remarks, addressing the opening ceremony of a security conference in Moscow via videolink.
“The American adventure in relation to Taiwan is not just a trip of an individual irresponsible politician, but part of a purposeful, conscious US strategy to destabilise and make chaotic the situation in the region and the world,” he added.
He said the visit was a “brazen demonstration of disrespect for the sovereignty of other countries and for its (Washington’s) international obligations”.
“We see this as a carefully planned provocation,” Putin said.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have been in tatters since Russia in late February launched a military intervention in pro-Western Ukraine.
Pummelled by a barrage of unprecedented Western sanctions, Putin has sought to bolster ties with countries in Africa and Asia, especially with China.
Moscow was in full solidarity with key ally Beijing during Pelosi’s August visit to self-ruled, democratic Taiwan, which China considers its territory.
Earlier this week, a leaked document suggested a top ranking Kremlin official had approached the West in a bid to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as conflict in the region continues into its sixth month.
“A representative of Putin’s inner-circle sent a signal to the West about the desire to negotiate. The mood of the Kremlin elite is panic,” the document, obtained by journalists in Europe, said.
The document, which was reportedly sent to Western intelligence officials, partially identified the unnamed Kremlin insider as “one of the pillars of the regime”.
They are thought to have reached out via either a Western diplomat or a CIA officer.
Reports claim insiders close to Putin are growing increasingly worried about the Russian economy amid crippling sanctions imposed by the West.
There is also high concern over the devolving situation at the Zaporizhzhia power plant, which analysts and government officials have repeatedly warned will turn into a “nuclear disaster” if conflict continues near its reactors.
“It is urgent to allow the inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency and to ensure the withdrawal of all Russian forces,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.
The Russian military control of the facility “endangers the population of Ukraine, of neighbouring countries and of the international community”, Stoltenberg added.
“Russian troops… now use the ground around the nuclear power plant as a staging area, as a platform, to launch artillery attacks on Ukrainian forces, and this is reckless, it is irresponsible.” Stoltenberg made the comments in separate news conferences Wednesday with the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo.
Russian forces in March took the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, located in southern Ukraine, shortly after invading.
The plant is the largest one in Europe, and the uncertainty surrounding it as the war rages has fuelled fears of a nuclear accident to rival that of Chernobyl in 1986, when a reactor exploded.
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