Marina Ovsyannikova, a producer at Russia’s state TV Channel One, interrupted a live news bulletin on the channel Monday, holding up a sign behind the studio presenter and shouting slogans denouncing the war in Ukraine.
The sign, in English and Russian, read: “NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They are lying to you here.” Another phrase, which looked like “Russians against war”, was partly obscured.
The extraordinary act of dissent took place on day 19 of the war which began when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24 in what he called a special military operation.
“Stop the war. No to war,” the woman protester could be heard shouting, as the news anchor continued to read from her teleprompter.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy 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,” Zelenskiy said. “And personally to the woman who entered the studio of Channel One with a poster against the war.”
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 “denazify” 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.
Pavel Chikov, head of Agora, said Ovsyannikova had been arrested and taken to a Moscow police station. Tass news agency said she may face charges under a law against discrediting the armed forces, citing a law enforcement source.
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”. The offence carries a jail term of up to 15 years.