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Migration Service Takes Credit for Population Growth

The Federal Migration Service announced Friday that it had contributed to Russia's first demographic increase in 15 years by granting Russian citizenship to about 400,000 people last year.

The new Russians along with 227,000 migrants who arrived to Russia in 2009 have helped to offset the country's shrinking population and even allowed a small growth of 1.4 percent, Federal Migration Service chief Konstantin Romodanovsky said.

“This is the first demographic increase in the past 15 years,” Romodanovsky said, Interfax reported.

President Dmitry Medvedev touted the end of a 15-year drop in the country's overall population in mid-January after Health and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova announced that preliminary statistics for last year showed that the country's population of 141.9 million had either remained stable or increased by 15,000 to 25,000 people.

The Federal Migration Service expelled 34,000 migrants from the country last year, an increase of 70 percent from 2008, and called $113 million in fines from people and companies that violated migration laws, Romodanovsky said.

He said 1.3 million migrants are expected to work in Russia this year, far below a cap of 2 million set in a government quota announced late last year.

Romodanovsky also said his agency planned to speed up the procedure for Russians to obtain passports for foreign travel, making it possible to order the document online.

“I think we will resolve this question within a year,” Romodanovsky said.

The service will start issuing new foreign passports valid for 10 years in March, according to the decree signed by President Dmitry Medvedev last month. The change will only apply to new biometric passports.

Romodanovsky also said all Chechen refugees have been returned to Chechnya and the camps that hosted them for many years in Ingushetia and other regions have been closed.

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