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A Russian regional health minister has this bit of medical advice for women: be careful that you don't have too many male partners before trying to bear children, otherwise you won't be able to give birth.

"If a woman has seven men before the birth of her first child, then that means 100 percent she will be infertile," Vladimir Viktorov, Chuvashia's top health official, said during a February 19 conference attended by regional head Mikhail Ignatyev and other officials.

The 48-year-old Viktorov is a dentist by training who was appointed in March 2017 as health minister of the Volga region located about 700 kilometers east of Moscow. Audio of his comments published by the local news portal Pravdapfo and by Dozhd TV caused a stir on social media and have since been defended by the region's top physician.

The audience of an estimated 200 can be heard murmuring loudly in response to Viktorov's claim, prompting the father of two to say: "This information is a fact. It's an interesting subject, yes? Everyone's getting worked up now. Think about it."

Viktorov's comments, made during a review of achievements made last year in the region's second-largest city, Novocheboksarsk, elicited mockery and outrage on Russian social media, with some questioning his medical qualifications.

Chuvashia's Health Ministry, however, came to Viktorov's defense on February 20, issuing a statement by the region's head physician noting the dangers that some sexually transmitted diseases pose to women's reproductive systems.

The doctor, Sergei Milayev, concludes that even a small number of sexual partners -- and the frequent changing of them -- "can lead to tubal peritoneal infertility."

"We do not advise playing roulette [with your body]. You may not be lucky," Milayev says. "Our main task as parents is to educate our children about chastity, which is the most reliable guarantee of health, including reproductive health, because any disease is easier to prevent than to treat."

The comments follow other dubious medical claims made by prominent health and social-welfare officials in Russia -- particularly about sexuality.

In 2016, Russia's national children's rights commissioner, Anna Kuznetsova, came under fire for an interview she gave three years earlier in which she discussed abortions and telegony, or "womb memory", a widely debunked theory that every sexual partner a woman has ever had can physically and emotionally influence a child she gives birth to.

"I am a good boy," 2-year-old Timur says as he blows out another cloud of tobacco smoke.

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia -- The uncle of a 2-year-old shown smoking in a viral video says he gave the cigarette to his nephew in good fun, but authorities in southern Russia aren't laughing.

After police in the North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz received numerous complaints from fuming residents who had seen the video online, they tracked the family down and fined the uncle, Aslan Dzavlayev.

The video, which has been removed from the video-sharing site YouTube for "violating community guidelines," shows young Timur picking up a lit cigarette from an ashtray at the family's home and taking a puff.

The 2-year-old confidently blows out smoke as Dzavlayev's hand is seen, from the point of view of the cameraman, flicking ashes into the ashtray from another cigarette.

Dzavlayev asks the toddler whether he is a “good boy,” to which Timur replies: "I am a good boy,” as he blows out another cloud of tobacco smoke.

At least one other unidentified person can be heard laughing in the room during the nearly two-minute video but is not seen by the camera.

As the cigarette ash grows, Dzavlayev tells Timur: ‘That's enough. Put out your cigarette,” and the toddler complies by reaching to stamp his smoke out in an ashtray.

Dzavlayev tells RFE/RL that it was "just a joke, to make fun," but police took the complaints seriously enough to investigate the family for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

After questioning the boy's parents at their home in a middle-class neighborhood along the Moscow highway on Vladikavkaz's west side, they determined on January 24 that neither the mother nor father were home when the video was shot. But police accepted Uncle Dzavlayev's admission that he was responsible for encouraging the 2-year-old to “consume tobacco products.”

Dzavlayev was issued an administrative fine of 3,000 rubles, or about $50. The parents, whose names were not released by police, declined to comment to RFE/RL about the circumstances surrounding the video.

Recent studies show that underage smoking is common in Russia, where the legal smoking age is 18.

In 2015, Tobacco Atlas reported that 51 percent of Russian males over the age of 15 smoke cigarettes daily, and 16 percent of Russian males aged 13 to 15 regularly use tobacco products.

But there is a big difference between 2 and 13. Artur Kokayev, North Ossetia's ombudsman for children, described the case as “out of the ordinary.”

The video from North Ossetia is not the first to go viral with images of a 2-year-old smoking a cigarette, however.

In 2010, Ardi Rizal, a 2-year-old boy from a remote village in Indonesia became an Internet sensation and shocked the world as the “chain-smoking toddler” when photographs and videos appeared online showing him as he smoked 40 cigarettes a day. (Oddly, the video of Ardi has not been removed by YouTube.)

Ardi eventually went through years of rehabilitation with a leading child psychologist.

At first, he reportedly replaced his tobacco cravings with food and became obese from overeating -- a habit that required another round of rehabilitation.

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at