Sunday, August 21, 2011

In Russia, Prime Minister Putin pledges $1.8 billion in aid for disabled people

From Reuters:

MOSCOW -- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (pictured) pledged help and cash for disabled Russians on August 19, seeking to broaden support for his new popular movement ahead of December's parliamentary election.

Russia signed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, aimed at ensuring equal rights, in 2008 but its 13 million disabled people enjoy little benefits compared with their counterparts in developed countries.

"We have to admit that in our country very little has been done to create a favourable environment for people who faced difficulties in life," Putin told leaders of organisations for the disabled which joined his All-Russia People's Front.

Putin, president from 2000 to 2008, is Russia's most popular politician. He created the Front to prop up the eroding support for his United Russia party which critics say has turned into a party of bureaucrats and career seekers.

Its supporters say the movement will bring in new faces from grassroots movements, create competition within United Russia and help address real life issues.

Russian cities provide little access for people with disabilities to transport, public buildings, schools, medical facilities and workplaces as requested by the U.N. convention and the education system is de-facto segregated.

Putin said all administrative buildings throughout Russia would soon be equipped with wheelchair ramps and elevators.

Russia needs to change 50 laws before it can ratify the convention which has an annex allowing individuals and groups to complain to the United Nations if their governments are not implementing it.

Putin said Russia had budgeted $1.8 billion until 2015 to create an accessible environment for the disabled in the cities and promised to speed up construction of a $10 million rehabilitation centre in Chechnya.

Vladimir Krupennikov, who climbed Russia's highest mountain in a wheelchair, warned Putin endemic corruption was a threat to the plan, citing his own experience of state fund tenders.

"People with no interest in the disabled come, bid a lower price and win. They just want to get the money and then blackmail the organisations for the disabled. There are many thieves posing as the disabled," he said.