RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia are no more. Russian President Vladimir Putin has shut down the state-owned news agencies in a surprise move, reports the BBC. The Kremlin is creating a new Russian Information Agency, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which will be led by Dmitry Kiselev, a pro-Kremlin journalist known for his anti-gay stance: He has said gay people should not be permitted to donate blood, sperm, or organs. (As for what to do with their hearts, he suggested burning them.)
The new agency will incorporate existing media including Russia Today, which a BBC correspondent notes is considered "more of a government mouthpiece, giving carefully selected news with a clear pro-Kremlin bias." An official says the changes will reduce costs and increase efficiency and reach. But opposition leader Alexei Navalny says he initially thought the whole thing was a "joke," and adds that Kiselev is the perfect face of "state propaganda." RIA Novosti was known for attempting to give a balanced view of the news despite its ownership, and in its own report it calls the move "the latest in a series of shifts ... which appear to point toward a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector." RIA Novosti's roots reach back to 1941, when the Soviet Information Bureau was formed two days after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union.