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Russia's Putin Scraps Major State-Run News Agency

Cars pass by the RIA Novosti information agency headquarters in Moscow on Monday. President Vladimir Putin named Dmitry Kiselyov, a controversial news anchor known for his ultraconservative views, to head a newly restructured state news agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin dissolved one of the country's official news agencies and an international radio broadcaster on Monday, setting up a new organization to be run by a news anchor known for his ultraconservative views.

RIA Novosti, the news agency, and Voice of Russia, the broadcaster, will be absorbed by a new entity, Russia Today.

Jessica Golloher is reporting on the story for our Newscast unit:

" A decree published on the Kremlin's website announced Dmitry Kiselyov's appointment as the head of Russia Today, replacing RIA Novosti in a major overhaul of the state news agency. The news anchor is known for holding controversial views; over the summer, Kiselyov said he believed that the organs of homosexuals are not fit for transplants, maintaining they should be burned. Putin holds the power to appoint and dismiss the head of the country's news agency. The announcement effectively transfers all property of RIA Novosti to Russia Today."

In a story on its own demise, RIA Novosti called the move "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."

Sergei Ivanov, the head of the presidential administration, said the changes were about saving money and making state media more effective.

"Russia has its own independent politics and strongly defends its national interests," he said. "It's difficult to explain this to the world, but we can do this, and we must do this."

RIA Novosti has a storied past. It was established in 1941, two days after Nazi Germany invaded what was then the Soviet Union. At the time, the news agency was called the Soviet Information Bureau. It now has reporters in more than 45 countries and provides news in 14 languages.

The New York Times notes that while RIA Novosti "continued to serve as an official news agency, its reporting has earned greater respect for balance and a diversity of viewpoints" — a position that was criticized by some Russians.

The Associated Press reports:

"Russian media outlets speculated that the reshuffle was aimed at RIA Novosti's former director, Svetlana Mironyuk, who presided over the company's more objective coverage of massive anti-Putin protests sparked by a fraud-tainted parliamentary vote in 2011. While Mironyuk was said to be backed by some liberal figures in the Kremlin, that reportage received a more critical reception among its hawkish wing."

As NPR's Corey Flintoff said last year, independent journalists in Russia have been subjected to a crackdown.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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