10 Dec 2013

Russian news agency closed

6:12 am on 10 December 2013

President Vladimir Putin has abolished one of the main state-owned news agencies in Russia, Ria Novosti.

In a surprise decree published on the Kremlin's website on Monday, Mr Putin announced it would be replaced by a news agency called Russia Today.

The new agency will be headed by a keen Kremlin supporter Dmitry Kiselev.

The state-owned Voice of Russia radio station has also been closed. The decree was effective immediately.

Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Kremlin administration was quoted as saying the agency needs to make "more rational use of public money" and that it has to be more effective.

"Russia pursues an independent policy and robustly defends its national interests. It's not easy to explain that to the world, but we can and must do this," he said.

A BBC correspondent in Moscow said RIA Novosti has tried hard to produce balanced coverage for Russian and international audiences, during Mr Putin's time as Russia's leader.

Although state-owned, it has reflected the views of the opposition and covered difficult topics for the Kremlin.

Mr Kiselev is known for his ultra-conservative views