Russian president Vladimir Putin has decided to axe Goskino, the government body responsible for supporting the film industry, provoking a wave of protest from local filmmakers.

Protesters claim that unless the decision is reversed it will signal the death of the struggling Russian film industry which is heavily dependent on government subsidies.

Putin decided to close the State Committee for Cinematography, "Goskino", as part of a wider effort to cut costs by reducing the number of governmental bodies.

Support for cinema will now come from the already underfunded Ministry of Culture. Goskino, as a government ministry, had its own minister for cinematography who had direct access to Russia's prime minister and president. Under the new structure, filmmakers will be forced to fight for scant government subsidies alongside the Bolshoi Theatre and other cultural entities funded by the state.

The Russian Filmmakers Union held an emergency session this week to insist that Putin reverse his decision, but there is little chance that he will do so according to Russian culture minister Mikahil Shvydkoi.

Alexander Golutva, the outgoing minister for cinematography, has been offered a post in the new Ministry of Culture but has said he will not accept the job unless asked to do so by the filmmakers themselves.

In Soviet times, Goskino functioned as a government organ of censorship and repression, but had reinvented itself in recent years as an important body that lobbied on behalf of the film industry and administered government grants.

Protests from filmmakers as well as open letters to Putin have gone unanswered which has further enraged filmmakers. Naum Kleiman, a member of the filmmakers union and director of the Cinema Museum said: "If this goes ahead the film studios will more than likely become bankrupt. They will probably be taken over by television which will mean the death of the film industry."