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Expect More Anti-U.S. Venom in the State Media

Published: December 17, 2013 (Issue # 1790)

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President Vladimir Putin has destroyed RIA Novosti, Russia's largest news agency. With a single stroke, he has leveled a powerful brand that the government had spent about $1 billion developing over the past decade. In place of RIA Novosti, the authorities will create a new agency called ­Rossia Sevodnya, which means "Russia Today," headed by Dmitry Kiselyov. He will dismantle the outgoing team headed by Svetlana Mironyuk, who labored over those 10 years to create a modern, world-class new agency. Putin's decree last week announcing the liquidation of RIA Novosti came as a complete surprise to the agency's 2,000 employees.

Kremlin officials justified the decision as a way to improve efficiency and cut costs. But the dismantling of RIA Novosti could not be a more inefficient and wanton waste of the state's resources. What is the point of spending so much time and money building up a world-class brand and then summarily destroying it? That is like eliminating the Coca-Cola brand and replacing it with Volga Kvass — and all in the name of greater efficiency. How is it "efficient" to destroy an agency that has long led Russian media in the use of modern technology, that is by far the most quoted domestic news agency, and that is ranked almost on par with leading foreign media? If the authorities really wanted to save money, they could have simply made budget cuts without demolishing an efficiently operating organization.

Senior officials have long had it in for Mironyuk. They disliked the fact that Mironyuk was too independent and that she refused to quickly carry out orders from superiors. The long-standing intrigue was resolved in a typically Russian fashion: By dismantling the entire organization that Mironyuk headed. It was like getting rid of a pesky neighbor by leveling his entire apartment building.

Of course, RIA Novosti was not an independent news agency. It was state-owned and carried out government policy and propaganda. But it worked very professionally by trying to objectively report all the basic information on domestic and international events.

As a result, RIA Novosti earned a much-deserved reputation over the years as a reliable source of information, whereas other state propaganda arms — for example, state-controlled NTV with its infamous pseudo-documentaries like "Anatomy of a Protest" — became seen as rogue media outlets by nearly everyone except Putin's core electorate.

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Thursday, Apr. 17

Expocenter Eurasia at 13 Ulitsa Kapitan Voronin is the sight of Goods on the Way, a five-day event starting today showcasing the latest in the industrial products industry. Bags, backpacks, swimsuits and much, much more will be available to attendees hoping to update not only their style but their accessories for the upcoming summer.

Friday, Apr. 18

Teachers and students alike shouldn’t miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.

The Tromso International Film Festival, Norway’s largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).

Sunday, Apr. 20

Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianity’s holiest day.

Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti — Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the desert’s most iconic plant.

Monday, Apr. 21

Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDA’s Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.

Tuesday, Apr. 22

SPIBA’s Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.

The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.