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Russian Media Behemoth Set To Launch Wave Of Foreign Bureaus

  • Tom Balmforth

Controversial pro-Kremlin TV anchor Dmitry Kiselyov is heading Rossia Segodnya, which is reportedly planning a major international expansion. (file photo)

Controversial pro-Kremlin TV anchor Dmitry Kiselyov is heading Rossia Segodnya, which is reportedly planning a major international expansion. (file photo)

MOSCOW -- Rossia Segodnya, Russia's state-run media conglomerate, is reportedly preparing to open local bureaus in 29 world capitals, a move expanding the Kremlin's global media presence amid what senior Russian officials call an "information war" with the West.

The new bureaus are set to facilitate local-language radio programming and news websites, though their locations have yet to be formally announced, Serbian media reported.

Rossia Segodnya would neither confirm nor deny the reports, saying details would be released at a launch event in Moscow next month.

The cities in question, however, appear to include Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe, and the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported in August that Rossia Segodnya was set to open a branch in Dushanbe that would be staffed by 25 locally hired reporters.

Balkan Insight and B92 reported this week on the imminent launch of a Belgrade bureau, which will apparently be headed by Ljubinka Milincic, a former Moscow correspondent for Serbian media outlets.

The reports follow Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent visit to the Serbian capital to much fanfare on the occasion of a colossal military parade, affirming Moscow's deep ties with the Balkan country.

'Information War'

Rossia Segodnya was established by a Kremlin decree last December. The media holding company integrates the state news agency RIA Novosti and state radio station Voice of Russia into a single media monolith helmed by controversial pro-Kremlin news anchor Dmitry Kiselyov.

Rossia Segodnya, or "Russia Today," is a different organization than RT, the lavishly funded pro-Kremlin TV network that broadcasts in English, Arabic, and Spanish.

On October 28, "The Guardian" reported that RT is launching a specially tailored television channel to be aired in Britain.

Russia has increased spending on its foreign media operations, earmarking 15.38 billion rubles ($362.2 million) for RT in 2015, an increase of nearly 30 percent from last year. Next year's budget for Rossia Segodnya has been almost tripled to 6.48 billion rubles ($152.6 million).

Western officials have called RT and other state-controlled Russian news outlets instruments of Kremlin "propaganda" deployed to shape the media narrative in the Ukraine crisis.

Russian officials, in turn, have accused the Western media of carrying out an "information war" against Russia and its interests.

Andrei Kolesnikov, a political analyst and columnist for the opposition-minded "Novaya gazeta" newspaper, says the Rossia Segodnya expansion is intended to complement the Kremlin's use of RT as a "propaganda" tool to burnish Russia's image abroad.

Kolesnikov also suggests Rossia Segodnya could potentially be used as a "cover" to improve Russian espionage networks or contacts in foreign countries.

He cited the recent case of Leonid Sviridov, a Russian reporter working for Rossia Segodnya in Poland, who on October 25 was stripped of his accreditation at the request of Polish security services.

Kiselyov has demanded an explanation for the move, though Polish authorities have yet to make such an explanation public.

RFE/RL's Tajik Service and Balkan Service contributed to this report
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