An employee on Russia’s state Channel One television has interrupted the channel’s main news program with an extraordinary protest against Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor at Channel One, burst on to the set of the live broadcast of the nightly news on Monday evening, shouting: “Stop the war. No to war. ”
She also held a sign saying: “Do not believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here. ” It was signed in English: “Russians against the war”.
The news anchor continued to read from her teleprompter speaking louder in an attempt to drown out Ovsyannikova, but her protest could be seen and heard for several seconds before the channel switched to a record segment.
Ovsyannikova also released a pre-recorded video on her social media channels in which she expressed her shame at working for Channel One and spreading “Kremlin propaganda”.
“Regrettably, for a number of years, I worked on Channel One and worked on Kremlin propaganda, I am very ashamed of this right now. Ashamed that I was allowed to tell lies from the television screen. Ashamed that I allowed the zombification of Russian people. We were silent in 2014 when this was just beginning. We did not go out to protest when the Kremlin poisoned [opposition leader Alexander] Navalny, ”she said.
“We are just silently watching this anti-human regime. And now the whole world has turned away from us and the next 10 generations will not be able to clean themselves from the shame of this fratricidal war. ”
Wearing a necklace in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, Ovsyannikova said in her video statement that her father is Ukrainian and her mother is Russian.
“What is happening in Ukraine is a crime and Russia is the aggressor,” she said. “The responsibility of this aggression lies on the shoulders of only one person: Vladimir Putin”.
She urged fellow Russians to join anti-war protests in order to bring an end to the conflict. “Only we have the power to stop all this madness. Go to the protests. Do not be afraid of anything. They can not imprison us all. ”
The OVD-Info human rights group said that Ovsyannikova was arrested shortly after her protest and was being held in a police station in Moscow.
She could face prison time under a newly introduced Russian legislation that criminalized spreading so-called “fake news” about the Russian military. Those found guilty under the law could face up to 15 years in jail.
Ovsyannikova could also face legal consequences for encouraging “civil unrest” by telling Russians to protest.
In a statement published by the state news agency TASS, Channel One said that “an incident took place with an extraneous woman in shot. An internal check is being carried out ”.
A law enforcement source told TASS that Ovsyannikova could be charged under legislation banning public acts that aim to “discredit the use of Russia’s armed forces”.
Her statement marks the first time that an employee from Russian state media has publicly denounced the war as the country continues its crackdown on anti-war dissent. So strict is the current wave 0f censorship that other news programs blurred out the message on Ovsyannikova’s sign in their own reports on the incident.
Since the start of the war, Russia has launched an unprecedented crackdown on independent news outlets and foreign social media networks.
More than two dozen Russian media outlets have been blocked by the country’s media regulator or have chosen to cease operations. The widely used social media platforms Facebook and Instagram have also been banned.
State TV meanwhile, remains the main source of news for many millions of Russians, and closely follows the Kremlin line.
Within hours of her protest, more than 40,000 people had so far left comments on Ovsyannikova’s Facebook page, with many praising her for her taking a stand.
“You are a hero. Thank you so much, ”one comment read.
Videos of the incident quickly racked up thousands of views.
“Wow, that girl is cool,” tweeted Kira Yarmysh, the spokesperson for the jailed opposition leader, Alexei Navalny.