A Russian editor who protested Moscow’s military action in Ukraine during a prime-time news broadcast on state TV has been fined and released following a court hearing.
Marina Ovsyannikova staged an extraordinary show of dissent on Monday night when she held up an anti-war sign behind a studio presenter reading the news on Channel One and shouted slogans condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A judge with Moscow’s Ostankinsky district court on Tuesday ordered Ovsyannikova to pay a fine of 30,000 rubles (about $280) after she ran onto the set of Russia’s most-watched evening news broadcast holding a poster reading “No war, stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here.”
“Stop the war. No to war,” the protester could be heard shouting, as the news anchor continued to read from a teleprompter.
Ovsyannikova, a Channel One employee, was found guilty of flouting protest laws, the court said. It was not immediately clear if she could also face other, more serious charges. Her lawyer was not immediately reachable for comment.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the protester in his nightly video address:
“I am grateful to those Russians who do not stop trying to convey the truth. To those who fight disinformation and tell the truth, real facts to their friends and loved ones,” Zelenskyy said. “And personally to the woman who entered the studio of Channel One with a poster against the war.”
The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the protest as “hooliganism”.
“The channel and those who are supposed to will get to the bottom of this,” he told reporters, describing Channel One as a pillar of objective and timely news.
Kira Yarmysh, spokeswoman for jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny, wrote on Twitter: “Wow, that girl is cool.” She posted a video of the incident, which quickly racked up more than 2.6 million views.
⚡️⚡️ ПРОПАГАНДИСТЫ ОТРЕКАЮТСЯ ОТ ПУТИНА https://t.co/d2HrrQGd5h
— Кира Ярмыш (@Kira_Yarmysh) March 14, 2022
Translation: Propagandists reject Putin
State TV is the main source of news for many millions of Russians, and closely follows the Kremlin line that Russia was forced to act in Ukraine to demilitarise and “de-nazify” the country, and to defend Russian-speakers there against “genocide”.
Ukraine and most of the world have condemned that as a false pretext for an invasion of a democratic country.
After the hearing, Ovsyannikova told reporters she was exhausted, had been questioned for more than 14 hours, had not been allowed to speak to her relatives and was not provided with legal assistance. She said she needed to rest before commenting further.
Her protest had stirred fears among her sympathisers that she could be prosecuted under new legislation that carries a jail term of up to 15 years.
The law, passed on March 4, makes public actions aimed at discrediting Russia’s army illegal and bans the spread of fake news or the “public dissemination of deliberately false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”.
Russian authorities have repeatedly decried reports of Russian military setbacks or civilian deaths in Ukraine as “fake” reports. State media outlets refer to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation” rather than a “war” or “invasion”.
So far more than 14,000 people have been arrested across cities in Russia for protesting against the war, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info.
Before the protest, Ovsyannikova had recorded a message on social media where she openly slammed Putin for being responsible for the “crime” taking place in Ukraine, adding that she felt ashamed for having worked for several years in a channel delivering “Kremlin propaganda”.
“I am ashamed that I allowed lies to be broadcast from TV screens. Ashamed that I allowed others to zombify Russian people,” she said, urging Russians to go out and demonstrate.