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Putin Proposes Land for Large Families

Putin playing badminton Saturday with President Dmitry Medvedev. Dmitry Astakhov

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed allotting free land to rural families with at least three children.

A land reform scheduled to start July 1 also envisages the withdrawal from owners of farmland left uncultivated for at least three years, Putin said Friday at a rural congress in town of Atyemar, in the Mordovia republic of the Volga Federal District.

"I ask you to speed up preparation of the government order which will identify criteria for unused agricultural land," he said.

Russia has about 24 million hectares of undistributed arable land that should be sold at below-market prices to people already working there, Putin said in March. That's an area almost as large as the United Kingdom.

"All undistributed agricultural lands should be offered to agricultural producers and farmers, who in fact work on those lands, on a priority basis," the prime minister said. Purchase prices should be discounted to 15 percent of registered value, and no land should be given to speculators, he said.

Putin also said during the visit that the government is considering introducing property taxes for owners of pipelines, railroads, power grids, military objects and other infrastructure. The Finance Ministry supports the idea, Putin told reporters.

On the same trip the prime minister said the government may allow so-called natural monopolies, including Gazprom and Russian Railways, to increase prices by more than the rate of inflation next year.

Limiting increases to 5.5 percent or 6.5 percent, the forecasted inflation range for 2012, won't generate the revenue the companies need to finance repairs, Putin said.

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