Russian President Vladimir Putin has used his annual state-of-the-nation address to parliament to focus on domestic affairs, including measures to counter Russia’s declining population.
In his January 15 speech to Russia’s two-chamber parliament — the Federal Assembly — Putin said that authorities need to do more to raise the country’s birthrate and support young families.
Putin said low incomes remain an obstacle to increase the population, now at about 147 million as the country faces the consequences of the post-Soviet economic collapse that led to a steep drop in the birthrate.
To bolster population growth, Putin promised the government would offer additional subsidies to families that have children.
The speech comes with the country still under Western sanctions for its actions in Ukraine and Syria, as well as its election meddling in the United States.
The sanctions have hampered the country's economic growth, leading to rising poverty rates and growing discontent highlighted by mass protests last summer in Moscow and other cities.
A poll by a Russian state pollster in May 2019 found public trust in Putin had fallen to its lowest level in 13 years.
Putin, 67, has dominated politics in Russia for two decades, serving as president or prime minister since 1999. In 2018, Putin was reelected to another six-year term.
The address at Moscow’s Manezh exhibition hall is one of three regularly scheduled national appearances the president makes each year — the others being a lavish question-and-answer session with the public and a stage-managed annual press conference.
It is the 16th time Putin has delivered the address before an audience that also includes government ministers, judges from the constitutional and supreme courts, leading regional officials, and other members of Russia's political elite.
In his address last year, Putin used his 90-minute speech to issue fresh threats against the United States if Washington were to deploy intermediate-range missiles in Europe.
In 2018, Putin focused mainly on claims about breakthroughs in the nation’s military arsenal and unveiled six nuclear-capable weapons that he said were unparalleled in the world.