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Putin dissolves state news agency, tightens grip on Russia media



(Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin tightened his control over Russia's media on Monday by dissolving the main state news agency and replacing it with an organization that is to promote Moscow's image abroad.

The move to abolish RIA Novosti and create a news agency to be known as Rossiya Segodnya is the second in two weeks strengthening Putin's hold on the media as he tries to reassert his authority after protests against his rule.

Most Russian media outlets are already loyal to Putin, and opponents get little air time, but the shake-up underlined their importance to Putin keeping power and the Kremlin's concern about the president's ratings and image.

The head of the new agency, to be built from the ashes of RIA Novosti, is a conservative news anchor, Dmitry Kiselyov, who once caused outrage by saying the organs of homosexuals should not be used in transplants.

"The main focus of ... Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) is to highlight abroad the state policy and public life of the Russian Federation," said a decree signed by Putin.

Sergei Ivanov, the head of the presidential administration, told reporters that the changes were intended to save money and improve the state media.

But the new organization has strong similarities to APN, a Soviet-era news agency whose role included writing articles about "the social-economic and cultural life of the Soviet people and items reflecting Soviet society's point of view on important internal and international events".

RIA said in an English-language article about Putin's step: "The move is the latest in a series of shifts in Russia's news landscape which appear to point towards a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector."

Rossiya Segodnya's focus on building up Russia abroad could solidify Putin's grip on information by further limiting sources of news for Russians whose TV screens are dominated by state-controlled channels.

Russia Arctic

Putin's decree appeared to have little effect on the two other major Russian news agencies, state-run Itar-Tass and private Interfax, but it could benefit both by making RIA's replacement less of a competitor domestically.

Itar-Tass is the successor of the Soviet official Tass agency, while Interfax has more leeway as a private agency but is restricted by the Kremlin's dominance.

NEWS BOSS COURTS CONTROVERSY

A prominent member of parliament, Alexei Mitrofanov, described Kiselyov as a "powerful propagandist" but said this was a good thing and that he was suitable for the job.

In his third term, after weathering protests led by urban liberals, the 61-year-old Putin has often appealed to conservatives and championed the Russian Orthodox Church as a moral guide for society.

Kiselyov has proved a loyal Putin supporter as a television presenter, at times making provocative remarks. In 2010 he said homosexuals should be banned from donating blood or sperm and last year said they should also be banned from donating organs.

Putin has been Russia's dominant leader since he was first elected president in 2000. He began his third term in the Kremlin in May 2012 after stepping aside to serve for four years as prime minister because of constitutional limits.

The opposition staged big street protests against him for several months from December 2011, following a parliamentary election they said was rigged. The demonstrations have faded but Putin's popularity ratings have declined from their peak during his first two terms - from 2000 until 2008.

The Kremlin extended its grip over radio and television broadcasting on November 26 when the media arm of state-controlled Gazprom bought mining tycoon Vladimir Potanin's Profmedia.

Through the deal, the ex-Soviet gas ministry - now Russia's largest firm by revenue - will add TV and radio stations, cinemas and film production and distribution assets to a sprawling portfolio built up around commercial channel NTV.

The Kremlin already funds an English-language TV channel called RT which was initially known as Russia Today. It is not clear whether the two will operate separately and RT's head, Margarita Simonyan, said she had been unaware of the move.

The new organization will be created in RIA Novosti's headquarters in central Moscow. The fate of its journalists and other employees was not immediately clear.

RIA Novosti was created as the Soviet Information Bureau in 1941, after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and issues reports in Russian and foreign languages.

(This story has been refiled to delete extraneous word in 4th paragraph)

(Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova and Alexei Kalmykov; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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1000|Char. 1000  Char.
Jim December 09 2013 at 6:55 PM

Russia will soon have a new czar. A little 5 foot 7 inch czar. Wait, how tall was Napoleon?

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1 reply
SHANE Jim December 09 2013 at 9:51 PM

"THE LITTLE EMPEROR" WAS EVEN SMALLER IN STATURE BUT...MIGHTY IN VISION AND AMBITION. WHEN ASKED HOW HE WAS ABLE TO WIN SO MANY MARTIAL VICTORIES IN THE FACE OF OVERWHELMING ODDS AND NEGATIVE CONDITIONS; HE REPLIED: "THE SAME SUGGESTIONS OF FEAR AND DOUBT,
DARKNESS AND INDECISION KNOCK AT THE DOOR OF MY THOUGHT, AS WITH EVERYONE ELSE; - WITH ONE MAJOR DIFFERENCE: I'VE NEVER LET THEM IN!!"

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rdz69 December 09 2013 at 3:28 PM

can u say KGB???

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liquidwallpaper December 09 2013 at 7:07 PM

I have been saying that Putin is a dictator that has stolen an oil company from a billionaire and stuck him in jail, making Putin one of the richest men in Russia. He has reopened the KGB and rehired many of his spies to gain control over the country. Now he takes away the freedom of speech. The world should boycott the winter Olympics because this is another Soviet Union ready to happen.

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2 replies
sneakyp957 liquidwallpaper December 09 2013 at 7:13 PM

"I have been saying that Putin is a dictator that has stolen an oil company from a billionaire and stuck him in jail,"

To be fair,the billionaire stole the oil company in an arragned buy of the USSR's natural resources,using western money. Mostly German. He and the bankers were seriously ripping off Russia of the tax money she needed from the underreported profits in order to feed the huge number of hungry and homeless people they had after the USSR collapsed.

It's hard to single out a villian in a whole country full of villians.

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2 replies
agoraemk sneakyp957 December 09 2013 at 7:27 PM

The one in power is way worse than the one in jail, don't you think?

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SHANE sneakyp957 December 09 2013 at 7:31 PM

THANKS FOR GIVING ME A CLEARER UNDERSTANDING OF THAT SITUATION I WAS MILDLY ACQUAINTED WITH. AND THE LAST LINE WAS...A GEM! : )

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gwalt0771 liquidwallpaper December 09 2013 at 7:50 PM

And what would you say about what the NSA and CIA are doing ? not just in the USA but around the world? What you call "gain control over the country" in Russia is what US legislators and presidents call "preventing the spread of terrorism" in this country. Our Homeland Security Department and other "intelligence" agencies are far more numerous, secretive, and overreaching than anything Russia or Putin has put together.

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dabear9245 December 09 2013 at 4:41 PM

Kiselyov's appointment by V.Putin to head the Russian news monopoly is only further evidence that the former KGB officer is intent on maintaining power by any means necessary. The soviets at least had the cover of a Marxist philosophy and men like Putin could operate with impunity and under soviet law. Putin and his gang of cutthroat capitalists have delivered Russia into the same slavery they had under Stalin and his later cynical power mongers. Kiselyov's ability is in demonizing Putin's political opposition while currying favor with homophobic elements and thus maintaining the support of the Russian Orthodox Church's most conservative and influential leaders.

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1 reply
tugsboat dabear9245 December 09 2013 at 4:45 PM

He's not a capitalist he's an oligarch and or a dictator neither of which capitalism functions well under!

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LAWMANTOO December 09 2013 at 3:25 PM

In Russia, some things never change

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mrguit December 09 2013 at 3:24 PM

frreee Vawdka faw evtheee one. Gawwthia!!!

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sneakyp957 December 09 2013 at 7:10 PM

Heil Putin!

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jfoxgeojoc December 09 2013 at 3:23 PM

Vladimir Putin is a mildly charismatic but highly intelligent leader. As the former head of the ruthless Russian KGB it might also be expected his desired direction would be that of returning Russia to the totalitarian rule days of the former USSR. There is no other leader in the world that poses a more real threat to the USA than this man. It would also now seem as if the old Russian media joke during absolute communist rule of "no truth in the news, and no news in the truth" has returned to the Putin led society.

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1 reply
LAWMANTOO jfoxgeojoc December 09 2013 at 3:27 PM

Amen!

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dannygarciany December 09 2013 at 4:42 PM

The tsar has spoken. He will never let go of power again. Europe especially should be worried.

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rwa325 December 09 2013 at 3:22 PM

Are we witnessing the emergence of Joseph Stalin's sucessor?

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1 reply
Maurice rwa325 December 09 2013 at 3:41 PM

I can't fathom the fact that Forbes magazine considered Putin the most influential man in the world, since he is a dictator and his people are slowly losing some of their rights Of course, Forbes is a conservative publication.

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