- An editor at a Russian-state TV station interrupted her network’s own broadcast with an anti-war message.
- She also carried a sign that criticized state propaganda for lying about the war.
- The protest comes during a broader effort to crackdown on internal opposition to the war.
Maria Ovsyannikova, an editor at the premier Russian state broadcaster, ran out and interrupted her network’s own live broadcast, shouting her opposition to the invasion of Ukraine and carrying a sign telling viewers that they are being lied to.
“Stop the war! No to war! Stop the war! No to war!” she shouted during her brief interruption of Channel One’s broadcast.
The sign she carried bore the messages, “Do not believe the propaganda” and “They are lying to you here.”
—Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) March 14, 2022
TASS, a Russian-state news agency, later said that Ovsyannikova was arrested. It previously called her an “outsider” before later calling Ovsyannikova an editor at Channel One, the state TV network in question.
The agency said that Ovsyannikova could be held liable for her actions under the nation’s criminal code. Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s ally recently expanded the code to criminalize even calling the Russian invasion of Ukraine a “war.”
Ovsyannikova said in a defiant pre-recorded message that now was the time for the Russian people to rise up against the conflict.
“It’s up to us to stop this madness. Come out to rallies, do not be afraid of anything, they can not jail us all,” she said in a brief video before her protest.
Even reporting about Ovsyannikova’s protest was censored, according to the Financial Times’ Max Seddon.
“To give you an idea of how sweeping the wartime censorship laws are in Russia: Novaya Gazeta, Nobel laureate Dmitry Muratov’s paper, published a picture of Ovsyannikova’s protest that looks like this,” Seddon wrote on Twitter, showing an image that completely blurred the sign Ovsyannikova had been holding.
—Max seddon (@maxseddon) March 14, 2022
Ovsyannikova also expressed regret for working for the network and for her role in fomenting the Kremlin’s propaganda.
“Unfortunately, in recent years I have been working on Channel One, doing Kremlin propaganda. And now I am very ashamed of it,” she said in a video recorded before her protest. “Ashamed of telling lies from the TV screen. Ashamed that I [was] allowed to zombify Russian people. “
Ovsyannikova blamed Putin directly for the war, calling it a “crime.”
“What is happening now in Ukraine is a crime, and Russia is an aggressor country, and only one person is responsible for this aggression. This man is Vladimir Putin,” she said in a brief message.
She added that her father is Ukrainian and her mother is Russian, driving home the very real effect of the conflict.
“This necklace around my neck is a symbol of the fact that Russia must immediately stop the fratricidal war.”
The Kremlin has stepped up efforts to punish dissidents to a conflict for which it is illegal to publicly call a war. Thousands of antiwar protesters have been arrested amid the crackdown. CIA Director Bill Burns told lawmakers last week that possibly as many as 14,000 people have been jailed for speaking out. Protests have even rocked St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown.
Prominent western news organizations like The New York Times have been forced to temporarily shutter their operations or take efforts to shield the whereabouts of their reporters under threat of a new law that allows 15-year prison sentences for those who call the war a war.
Other Russians are simply fleeing the country with no certainty about when or if they will return.
“This looks like the biggest movement, the biggest exodus of Russian people since 100 years ago when a number of anti-communists fled the country after the Bolshevik revolution, including my ancestors actually,” The Times’ Valerie Hopkins told Anderson Cooper in Lyiv, Ukraine earlier on Monday.
Translations by Oleksandr Vynogradov.