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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Social Policy Chief Says He Lacks Funds, Power to Relieve Russia's 'Mass Poverty'

Russia's social policy chief said Monday a quarter of Russians were living below subsistence levels and complained he had little power or money to put things right.

First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin, in overall charge of social policy, said real incomes had plunged 40 percent since the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, unemployment had risen and many regions faced acute social problems.

"However deplorable it is, we have to acknowledge that mass poverty has arisen and the number of citizens with incomes below the subsistence minimum is a quarter of the whole population of Russia," Ilyushin told a news conference. "The main and strongest impression that I have taken from two months of work is that I can resolve practically nothing. I do not have that part of the budget and financial resources with which I can take decisions."

The discreetly veiled gap between Soviet-era rich and poor has turned into a broad and very evident chasm in the new Russia, where an elite has amassed vast fortunes and sky-high inflation of the early years of reform has beggared millions.

Ilyushin said money for social programs was not always going to the right people. "Sponging has increased and there are limited possibilities of getting help to those who really need it," he said.

, who moved from Yeltsin's administration to join the government,