In an extraordinary display of public protest in support of Ukraine, an employee of Russian state TV’s Channel One interrupted a live news broadcast Monday evening, chanting, “Stop the war. No to war.” The employee, who was identified as Marina Ovsyannikova, burst onto the live set holding a poster that read: “No war. Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here.”
It was signed, “Russians against the war.”
In the foreground, longtime anchor Ekaterina Andreeva continued to read a piece about Russian efforts to stem the effects of punitive global sanctions. She attempted to speak louder to drown out Ovsyannikova’s chanting before the station abruptly switched over to a recorded segment.
Ovsyannikova is an editor and producer for Channel One, which she denounced as “Kremlin propaganda.”
In a video address recorded before the stunt and released via independent Russian human rights media project OVD-Info, Ovsyannikova said, “What is going on in Ukraine is a crime.”
“I am ashamed that I’ve allowed the lies to be said on the TV screens. I am ashamed that I let the Russian people be zombified.”
In the video, Ovsyannikova is seen wearing a necklace that combines the colours of the Ukrainian and Russian flags: blue, yellow, red and white. She states in the video that her father is Ukrainian and her mother is Russian.
“We were silent in 2014 when this was just beginning,” Ovsyannikova declared, in reference to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. “We did not go out to protest when the Kremlin poisoned (opposition leader Alexei) Navalny.”
Ovsyannikova went on to urge her fellow Russians to seize the moment to protest.
“Only we have the power to stop all this madness. Go to the protests. Don’t be afraid of anything. They can’t imprison us all.”
Ovsyannikova’s protest is made all the more striking given Russia’s increasing crackdowns on anti-war protesters, state critics and independent media. Earlier this month, Russia’s parliament passed legislation imposing a 15-year jail term for anyone found spreading “fake news” about the military.
According to OVD-Info, over 14,000 Russians who have protested in support of Ukraine have been arrested.
Dozens of Russian media outlets have been blocked by the state’s media regulator or have chosen to cease operations to avoid the new repressive laws. International media organizations, including CBC, CNN and BBC have suspended operations in Russia for the safety of their journalists. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have also been banned in the country.
Russian state TV remains the main source of news for most Russians.
According to TASS, a Russian state-owned news agency, Ovsyannikova has been detained and may be convicted for “discrediting” the Russian military.
Ovsyannikova was pictured in court Tuesday with human rights lawyer Anton Gashinsky.
She said she was fined 30,000 Russian roubles (approximately $358 Canadian) and interrogated for 14 hours.
According to The Guardian, Ovsyannikova’s actions mark the first time a Russian state media employee has publicly condemned the war in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Ovsyannikova’s protest, saying in a video statement Monday that he is “thankful to those Russians who don’t stop trying to deliver the truth, who are fighting against disinformation and tell real facts to their friends and families, and personally to that woman who went in the studio of Channel One with an anti-war poster.”
Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs also tweeted his support for Ovsyannikova.
Despite Russian media blurring out Ovsyannikova’s poster when reporting on the incident, the event went viral in Russia and around the world.