The move to abolish RIA Novosti and create a news agency to be known as "Rossiya Segodnya" (Russia Today) 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.
               
Independent political analyst Pavel Salin said the move was likely a result of a turf wars at the Kremlin and a victory for the hawks as it also sidelines the current RIA Novosti head, Svetlana Mironyuk, who is seen as more liberally-minded.
               
"I expect a sharp ideological turn now towards much more hawkish reporting under the even closer eye of the Kremlin and directed at the West," Salin said.
               
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 main focus of ... Rossiya Segodnya is to highlight abroad the state policy and public life of the Russian Federation," said a decree signed by Putin.
               
RIA Novosti traces its roots to 1941 when the Soviet Information Bureau was established by communist rulers.
               
It then morphed into the APN news agency in 1960s which was tasked with reporting on "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".
               
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.
               
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.
               
"Restoring a fair attitude towards Russia as an important country in the world and one with good intentions - that is the mission of the new structure that I will head," he told the state TV broadcaster Rossiya 24.
               
Sergei Ivanov, the head of the presidential administration, told reporters that the changes were intended to save money and improve the state media.

(Agencies)

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