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A Russian who protested the war on live TV refused to retract her statement in court

A dissenting Channel One employee interrupted Russia's most-watched evening news broadcast, holding a poster reading as "No War" and "Russians for peace" and condemning Moscow's military action in Ukraine.
AFP via Getty Images
A dissenting Channel One employee interrupted Russia's most-watched evening news broadcast, holding a poster reading as "No War" and "Russians for peace" and condemning Moscow's military action in Ukraine.

A Russian woman who burst onto the set of a live TV news broadcast to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine was quickly arrested and is the subject of "a pre-investigation check," according to state-run Tass media.

The woman, Marina Ovsyannikova, is an editor at Channel One; she protested the war by walking behind a news anchor while holding a sign reading "No War" and telling viewers they were being lied to. It also said "Russians against war."

In court Tuesday, she refused to retract her statement against the war, according to Russian news outlet Mediazona.

Ovsyannikova's whereabouts were in question after her arrest, but she later appeared in a district court, sitting next to her lawyer, according to human rights attorney Sergei Badamshin's Telegram channel. The Novaya Gazeta newspaper said she faced an administrative charge of organizing an uncoordinated event.

Badamshin says the charge stemmed not from Ovsyannikova's on-air protest but from a video she posted on social media in which she called for Russians to protest the war in Ukraine. Ovsyannikova was fined 30,000 rubles (about $280) for that offense, he said. She still faces the threat of other charges.

Ovsyannikova briefly spoke to journalists after her court appearance, thanking people for their support and saying that she had been subjected to a long interrogation without legal help.

Badamshin also noted that Russian law bars police from arresting mothers on administrative charges if their children are younger than 14. Ovsyannikova has two children — one is 11 and the other is 17, he said. In court, Ovsyannikova was still wearing the blue, yellow, red and white necklace that she previously said represented her hope that the countries could coexist peacefully.

The website OVD-info, which monitors rights abuses in Russia, shared a video Ovsyannikova recorded before taking action. In it, she said she was ashamed for her role in helping spread Kremlin propaganda.

"I'm embarrassed for letting them tell lies from the TV screen. I'm ashamed that I allowed them to zombify Russian people," Ovsyannikova said, according to a translation by OVD-info.

Ukrainians were never Russia's enemies, she said, stating that her father is Ukrainian and her mother is Russian. She urged more people to protest the invasion.

"What's happening in Ukraine right now is a true crime. And Russia is the aggressor," she said. "And the responsibility for this crime lies only on the conscience of one person, and that person is Vladimir Putin."

Ovsyannikova's protest was quickly hailed as an act of courage, as it immediately led to her arrest.

Russia's federal Investigative Committee is now handling her case; any charges against her could stem from Russia's newly adopted laws making it a crime to spread what the Russian government deems "fake news" about its military.

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: March 16, 2022 at 12:00 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly translated the poster as saying "Russians for peace." In fact, it says "Russians against war."
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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