'Russia's largest government-owned news agency has warned defiantly of "a tightening of state control" over the country's media after Vladimir Putin announced plans to close it down and replace it with a new organisation headed by a controversial anti-Western television talk show host.
In a surprise decree published on the Kremlin's website on Monday, Mr Putin "liquidated" the RIA Novosti news agency and created a new organization called Rossia Segodnya , or Russia Today — in what many commentators see as a decision to eliminate one of the most balanced news outlets in the Kremlin's sprawling portfolio of news agencies, newspapers and television stations…
RIA Novosti began life under Josef Stalin in 1941 and has struggled to shake off a Soviet legacy of managerial inertia since the fall of the USSR, but has acquired a reputation as a relatively trustworthy and balanced source of news under Svetlana Mironyuk, the chief editor since 2004.
In contrast to state-owned Federal television channels, which are tightly controlled by the Kremlin and have a reputation for screening hatchet jobs on opposition figures, RIA Novosti appeared to have a licence to operate relatively freely under Ms Mironyuk's leadership, reporting controversial stories including the 2012 anti-Putin protests in Moscow, and more recently the pro-Europe protests in Ukraine, with little if any bias.'
"I'm sure achieving Eurasian integration will only increase interest (in it) from our other neighbours, including from our Ukrainian partners," Mr Putin said. "I hope that all political sides can successfully reach an agreement in the interests of the Ukrainian people."
"Our integration project is based on equal rights and real economic interests," referring to a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan which Mr Putin plans to develop into a political and trading bloc to be known as the Eurasian Union…
Without naming the United States, Mr Putin warned that the development of anti-missile shields and powerful long-range non-nuclear weapons could "reduce to nothing" existing nuclear arms control pacts and upset the post-Cold War strategic balance.
"Nobody should have any illusion about the possibility of gaining military superiority over Russia," he said. "We will never allow this to happen. Russia will respond to all these challenges, political and military."