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A Russian minister has come in for criticism for awarding a plot of land as a competition prize on his official Instagram account.

Alexander Kozlov, minister in charge of the development of the Far East, launched a mystery prize draw, open to anyone who subscribed and commented on his Instagram page as long as they also tagged a friend - with surprise gifts for anyone who guessed what the main prize was, the news portal reports.

He garnered almost 8,000 comments in a matter of days. Some suggested the prize was lunch with Mr Kozlov on his expense account while others guessed at early retirement - a reference to the Russian government's decision to raise the pension age that has prompted .

But the prize turned out to be a plot of land already on offer for free under the government's plan, which aims to counter the rural depopulation of eastern Siberia by giving up to a hectare to any citizen who want to settle or work the land.

Some critics complained that the competition bypassed the scheme and awarded the plot at random, rather than to someone who wants or needs it.

Others said that the minister ought to be sorting out the problems that some new settlers on Far Eastern lands have already encountered - ranging from red tape to "".

The minister insists that he ran the competition , "spending no more than 10 minutes on it", and denies that any needy applicant had lost out.

Many social media users are happy to accept his effort to publicise the Far Eastern Hectare scheme, although Mr Kozlov might not appreciate the well-intentioned comment that he had "just offered to give away something that ".