MOSCOW (Reuters) -- President Dmitry Medvedev has said Russia should take urgent action to protect children from violent crime and sexual abuse, in order to prevent them from joining a growing army of abandoned children.
A total of 126,000 children were victims of violence in Russia last year, Medvedev told a meeting of senior officials, according to the transcript of his speech posted on the official Kremlin website.
Medvedev said 1,914 underaged children had died as a result of violent attacks in 2008 and another 12,500 were missing. Official data showed 760,000 minors were living "in socially dangerous conditions," he said.
The abuse of minors was an extremely complicated problem that reflected on the maturity of society.
"We need a normal system of childhood protection in the most accurate sense of this word. Today there is no such system in the country, and these deplorable figures prove this," he said.
Russian newspapers often publish reports about children falling prey to pedophiles or being killed in domestic violence by parents or relatives who are drunk or taking drugs.
Medvedev called for tougher sentences for serious crimes against children, including no early release from prison.
The president said the authorities had detected 100,000 problem families a year in Russia.
"Children, growing up in such families, permanently join in the ranks of waifs...and become crime victims or often commit crimes themselves," he said.
Even children with no social disadvantages could be killed or disabled due to official negligence, said Medvedev, citing the partial collapse of a school in a provincial Russian town last autumn that killed five children and injured four others.