A Russian journalist who protested about the war on Ukraine on live TV has been fined and released.
On Monday 14 March, Marina Ovsyannikova appeared live on air to protest the war.
It was the first time a Russia state media employee has publicly condemned the war live on air.
Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, protests against the war have broken out across Russia - protests which Russian authorities have strictly cracked down on. Almost 15,000 people, including children and the elderly, have been detained for protesting against the war.
This is everything you need to know.
Who is Marina Ovsyannikova?
Ovsyannikova is a 44-year-old journalist and editor at the Channel One Russia TV network.
Not much is known about Ovsyannikova. According to her social media, Ovsyannikova graduated from the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) in 2005, and also attended the Kuban State University in Krasnodar, southern Russia.
On her Instagram, which has been closed, Ovsyannikova lists her interests as “fitness and swimming in open water” and “golden retrievers”.
In a 2002 interview with Yuga about sports, Ovsyannikova said that she got into swimming at the age of six and that the “pinnacle of my swimming career was getting into the university team, in which I won the championship of the Krasnodar Territory among universities”.
What did she do?
On 14 March 2022, Ovsyannikova appeared behind fellow Channel One newscaster Ekaterina Andreeva during a live broadcast related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, holding a poster which bore a message in a mix of English and Russian.
The sign said: “NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They are lying to you here.”
The journalist could also be heard shouting “Stop the war. No to war,” in the background as Andreeva continued to read from the teleprompter.
Ovsyannikova and her message could be heard and seen for a few seconds before the channel switched to a different report.
The incident marks the first time that a Russian state media employee has publicly criticised the war in Ukraine.
For millions of Russians, State TV is their only news source and following the invasion of Ukraine, has closely followed the Kremlin line that Russia was forced into action in Ukraine in order to demilitarise and “denazify” the country, and also to protect Russians in Ukraine from “genocide”.
Since the beginning of the war, more than two dozen Russian media outlets have either been blocked by Russia’s media regulator, or have stopped their operations. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have also been banned.
Access to foreign and independent media outlets have also been restricted by Russian authorities, such as BBC World News.
What did she say in her pre-recorded message?
Prior to her protest, Ovsyannikova also recorded a pre-recorded message which OVD-Info, an independent Russian human rights group, shared on Twitter.
According to a translation by the Russian human rights group, She said: “What’s happening in Ukraine right now is a true crime. And Russia is the aggressor. And the responsibility for this crime lies only on the conscience of one person, and that person is Vladimir Putin. My father is Ukrainian, my mother is Russian.
“They were never enemies. And this necklace around my neck [in the colours of the Russian and Ukrainian flags] is a symbol of the fact that Russia must immediately stop the fratricidal war so that our closely-bonded people will still be able to reconcile.
“Unfortunately, in recent years I have been working on Channel One, creating Kremlin propaganda and I am now very ashamed of it. I’m embarrassed for letting them tell lies from the TV screen. I’m ashamed that I allowed them to zombify Russian people.
“We were silent in 2014, when all this was starting. We didn’t go out to rallies and protests when the Kremlin poisoned Navalny. We just silently observed this anti-human regime. And now the whole world has turned its back on us.
“And ten more generations of our descendants will not be able to wash away the shame of this fratricidal war. We are the Russian people. We are thoughtful and smart, it is only in our power to stop this madness.
“Come out to protest, don’t be afraid of anything, they can’t arrest every one of us.”
What happened after the protest?
It’s believed that Ovsyannikova has been detained by the police following her protest.
According to OVD-Info Ovsyannikova had been taken to the Ostankino police station, but officers on duty said that “she was not there”.
OVD-Info says that her current whereabouts are “still unknown”.
BBC reports that she was fined and released. It said the 30,000 rouble (around £215) fine related to her video message.
She had pleaded not guilty to the charge of organising an unauthorised public event.
It is not clear if she will face separate charges relating to the protest on live TV.
There were concerns she could face time in prison due to a freshly introduced piece of Russian legislation, passed on 4 March, that outlawed the spread of “fake news” or the “public dissemination of deliberately false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”.
Those found guilty could face up to 15 years in jail.
What did she say after her court hearing?
The BBC reports that she told reporters after the hearing that she had gone two days with no sleep, and had been questioned for over 14 hours without legal help or the opportunity to contact her loved ones.
“It was my anti-war decision. I made this decision by myself because I don’t like Russia starting this invasion. It was really terrible,” she said in English as she left the courthouse.
What did Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky say?
In his nightly video address, Zelensky thanked Ovsyannikova for her actions.
He said: “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.
“And personally to the woman who entered the studio of Channel One with a poster against the war.”
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