Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree dissolving two of the country’s state news agencies and absorbing them into a new organization that will focus on promoting Russia’s image abroad, the Kremlin announced Monday.
In a report on its own demise, RIA Novosti announced it would be abolished alongside Voice of Russia radio, and folded into the new outlet Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), different from the Kremlin mouthpiece RT (originally short for Russia Today).
“The main focus of… Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) is to highlight abroad the state policy and public life of the Russian Federation,” said the decree, signed by Putin. Sergei Ivanov, head of his administration, told reporters the changes were a money-saving effort to build a more effective state media: “Russia has its own independent politics and strongly defends its national interests: it’s difficult to explain this to the world but we can do this, and we must do this.”
Instead, the move has largely been criticized as another example Putin tightening his grip over the country’s media. Russia has jumped from scandal to scandal for much of the year, including reports of it outlawing homosexuality propaganda at the Winter Olympics in Sochi next February, detaining Greenpeace activists, supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad and his handling of the jailed Pussy Riot musicians.