Putin cuddles Russia's '7 billionth' baby
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday gingerly hugged one of Russia's claimants to the "seven billionth baby" title at a maternity hospital in the westernmost city of Kaliningrad.
Wearing a white coat, Putin handed a big bunch of flowers to mother Yelena Nikolayeva, who handed him the baby swaddled in a bright yellow blanket decorated with bees and mushrooms, Russian state television showed.
Pyotr Nikolayev was born on October 31 at two minutes past midnight, according to the label on his mother's bed. Sucking a dummy, he stayed silent throughout the momentuous visit.
Putin handed the mother a certificate allowing her to exchange her flat for a larger one. The family, which now has three children, currently lives in a one-bedroom flat, the prime minister's website said.
"I wish you happiness and all the rest," Putin said in a video posted on Life News website.
The baby's mother, glowing in a rose-print dressing gown, took the opportunity to thank Putin for a new kindergarten and school in her neighbourhood in the Russian exclave, which borders Lithuania and Poland.
"The dad's really pleased. He practically burst into tears when I told him," the mother said in the Life News video.
State television broadcast the first pictures of Pyotr Nikolayev on Monday, saying he had been designated by the authorities as the symbolic newborn.
Bizarrely, authorities in the Kamchatka region on the Pacific Ocean also issued a proud statement saying they had hosted the birth of the "seventh billion" in the main city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
Russia is keen to halt its demographic slump and rewards mothers giving birth to second or more children with a lump sum payment.
© 2011 AFP