November 2, 2011 / 6:05 PM / 8 years ago

Putin hails Russian boy as world's "7 billionth"

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) takes newborn Pyotr Nikolaev from his mother Marina during his visit to a postnatal clinic in Kaliningrad November 2, 2011. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Pool

KALININGRAD, Russia (Reuters) - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hailed a two-day old Russian boy as the world’s seven billionth person Wednesday, weighing into a bizarre scramble to claim a title that is almost impossible to verify.

Russia’s Pyotr Nikolayev was born on Oct 31, two minutes after midnight in a maternity hospital in Russia’s Western exclave of Kaliningrad, wedged between Poland and the Baltic Sea.

“How did you manage to do it on the very 7 billion mark?” Putin, who is running for president in a March election, asked the child’s mother in front of a group of television reporters.

“It was all down to him. I am just a normal mum,” Yelena Nikolayeva, replied as she handed the boy to Putin, Russia’s paramount leader. The pictures were aired on state television at peak viewing times.

The United Nations says the population reached the 7 billion mark on Oct 31 — 13 years after reaching 6 billion, and has tried to use the sharp increase to draw attention to the problems of population growth.

Though it is almost impossible to say which person was actually the midnight’s child of this billion, there have been claims to the title from people in countries such as the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and Britain.

Local officials in Russia’s Far East even awarded a certificate to the mother of another boy, Alexander, that purported to confirm his title as the world’s seven billionth person.

A spokesman for the United Nation’s Population Fund could not be reached for comment.

Writing by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Paul Casciato

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