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Russia Seeks To Populate Remote East With Free Land Offer

Russia is preparing to offer residents of its remote Far East plots of land at no charge in a bid to boost the population and promote development.

President Vladimir Putin approved the idea in a meeting on January 19 with his representative in the Far East, Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev.

Trutnev said handing out 1-hectare plots of land would help "attract more residents" to the vast and sparsely populated region.

Putin is seeking to increase Russia's influence in the Asia-Pacific region and has said development of the Russian Far East is a priority.

Many Russians fear that faster-growing China could have designs on Russian Far Eastern regions across the border.

The governor of the Amur region in the Far East said on January 20 that his province has some 400 hectares of state-owned land that is not being used and could be distributed to residents to help "curb the exodus" of locals to other parts of Russia.

Putin said the issue must be studied thoroughly before a program to provide residents with plots of land could begin.

With reporting by TASS and Interfax