The Associated Press reports on how children continue to be abused and tortured in Putin’s Russia (hence Russia’s falling population is far from surprising):
The 15-year-old twins sleep among trash and dirt in a nook under a railway platform and spend their days at a Salvation Army shelter in a grim Moscow neighborhood. But Denis and his sister, Olesya, prefer being homeless to living with their parents in Elektrostal, 36 miles east of the capital. They said their mother abused them physically and verbally, then kicked them out in July, telling them to find jobs. “It was hard at home, not cozy,” said Denis, who spoke on the condition that his last name not be used. The twins are among a growing number of Russia’s children who face abuse and neglect despite an economic boom that has brought unprecedented wealth.
A report by Russia’s human rights ombudsman said that children’s rights violations remain “systematic” and that more parents are victimizing their children. Although oil wealth has enriched a minority of Russians, the poverty, social decay and endemic alcoholism that are at the root of the child abuse have deepened since the 1991 Soviet collapse.
Public sensitivity to child welfare is growing, however, as Russians face up to the fact that the population has shrunk by about 4 percent a year since 1993, to 142.7 million. President Vladimir Putin sounded the alarm in 2006 and said in his annual state of the nation address that the country was on the verge of a demographic crisis and that Russia’s children needed special care.
Official statistics show that the number of children has fallen from 36 million to 29 million over the past eight years, part of an overall fall resulting from low birth rates, an antiquated public health-care system, poverty and alcoholism. Child’s Right, a Moscow-based advocacy group, said about 50,000 Russian children — one out of every 580 — run away from home each year. About 20,000 flee from state-run orphanages and other institutions. “Many people see children as their property. There is no concept that they bear some social responsibility for their children,” said Boris Altshuler, head of Child’s Right.
In recent years, the Russian government has established a foster home program and created hot lines for child victims.
Every year, about 2,000 of Russia’s 29 million children up to 17 years old are killed by their parents or other relatives — a rate of about 6.9 per 100,000, according to Child’s Right, a Moscow-based advocacy group. By rough comparison, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in 2005, the overall homicide rate for children age 13 and under — regardless of the perpetrator — was 1.4 per 100,000. The overall U.S. rate for children ages 14 to 17 was 4.8 per 100,000. According to a UNICEF report, the suicide rate for Russian youths ages 15 to 19 was 20.2 per 100,000 in 2004. That’s more than double the rate of 8.2 per 100,000 for the same age group in the U.S. in 2004, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.