Kremlin turns to foreign media to improve its image

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The Kremlin's campaign to improve Russia's image on the international stage is to move up a gear with the multimillion-pound placing of upbeat "informational" Russian supplements in national newspapers around the globe.

Moscow says it is keen to correct what it sees as overly negative and outdated stereotypes about Russia, which it contends have long been peddled by the foreign media. The essence of its message is clear: the West and the wider world have nothing to fear from a resurgent Russia which doesn't intend to use its energy reserves to bully other countries and is a reliable business partner.

The first three countries to be targeted with what some commentators have labelled "propaganda" will be Britain, the United States and China, with upbeat pull-out supplements due to appear in The Washington Post, The Daily Telegraph, and a Chinese daily on a monthly basis starting later this year.

The project will be extended to cover a further nine countries next year and the supplements will appear indefinitely.

The articles will be prepared by a special unit based in Moscow, attached to the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

It will not be the first Kremlin-backed project to try to give Russia's image a makeover. Last year an English-language television channel was launched called Russia Today.

And this year the Kremlin signed a lucrative contract with the American public relations firm Ketchum to make sure Russia puts its best foot forward during its historic chairmanship of the G8 group of leading industrial nations.

In recent weeks, the news from Russia has been dominated by a series of high-profile contract killings and a fractious spy scandal with neighbouring Georgia.