Vladimir Putin has abolished Russia’s state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.
In a surprise decree published on the Kremlin’s website on Monday, President Vladimir Putin announced it would be replaced by a news agency called Russia Today.
Russia Today will be headed by journalist and keen Kremlin supporter Dmitry Kiselev.
The state-owned Voice of Russia radio station has also been closed. The decree was effective immediately.
Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Kremlin administration, has told journalists in Moscow that the news agency is being restructured in order to make it more economical while increasing its reach, Interfax reports.
He was quoted as saying that the agency, which is being dissolved and reorganized as International News Agency Russia Today, needs to make “more rational use of public money” and that it has to be more effective.
“Russia pursues an independent policy and robustly defends its national interests. It’s not easy to explain that to the world, but we can and must do this,” Sergey Ivanov said.
During Vladimir Putin’s time as Russia’s leader, RIA Novosti has tried hard to produce balanced coverage for Russian and international audiences.
Although state-owned, RIA Novosti has reflected the views of the opposition and covered difficult topics for the Kremlin.
Dmitry Kiselev is known for his ultra-conservative views, including recently saying that gay people should be banned from giving blood, and that their hearts should be burnt rather than used in transplants.
Reporting on its own demise, RIA Novosti noted in its news report that “the move is the latest in a series of shifts in Russia’s news landscape, which appear to point toward a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector”.