Kremlin tightens grip on Russian media

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The Independent Online

The most influential newspaper in Russia is to come under Kremlin control as the government tightens its grip on the media in the run-up to elections next year.

Komsomolskaya Pravda will become part of the media wing of Gazprom, the state energy giant, by January at the latest. Once the transaction is complete, more than 90 per cent of Russia's media assets will be in the hands of the state or affiliated structures, a prospect that alarms proponents of free speech.

Founded in 1925, Komsomolskaya Pravda has the same kind of readership and influence as The Sun in Britain. It is read by an estimated 10 million people and has the ability to set the agenda and make or break political careers.

The newspaper is already friendly to the Kremlin, running celebrity stories interspersed with positive articles about President Vladimir Putin. But it appears the government does not want to take any chances ahead of parliamentary elections in December 2007 seen as a dress rehearsal for a presidential vote three months later.