Vladimir Putin has appointed Dmitry Kiselyov to head a newly organized state-run media agency.
Sparking controversy for liquidating a radio broadcasting agency, a news agency and the official government newspaper, Putin has also assigned Kiselyov to run what is now being called Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today).
Kiselyov’s appointment comes as a surprise move given the global criticism of Putin over his new law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’.
During an April 2012 debate over a law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’ Kiselyov was recorded saying: ‘I think banning gays from distributing propaganda to children is not enough.
‘I think they should be banned from donating blood or sperm, and if they die in a car crash, their hearts should be burnt or buried in the ground as unsuitable for the continuation of life,’ he added.
Russia Today replaces RIA Novosti, Russia’s biggest news agency and a sponsor of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, with ‘the main purpose of which is to provide information on Russian state policy and Russian life and society for audiences abroad,’ according to a statement on the Kremlin website.
According to AFP, employees of RIA Novosti were not given prior notice of the reorganization.
Sergei Ivanov, Putin's chief of staff, said in a statement: ‘Russia is following its own policy, firmly defending national interests, this is difficult to explain to the world but one can and must do it.’