A state television employee burst on to main main state television evening news broadcast on Monday to protest against Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the most public sign yet of simmering domestic discontent over the three-week war.
Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor at Channel One, appeared for a few seconds live on air holding a sign that said “Stop the war – Don’t believe propaganda – They’re lying to you” and chanting “Stop the war! No to war! ”
Though the channel cut the feed after a few seconds, Ovsyannikova’s unprecedented intervention was an extraordinary act of defiance after Russia ramped up already draconian censorship laws when the war began in late February.
Police detained Ovsyannikova under a new law that criminalizes acts such as “discrediting the Russian armed forces” and spreading “fake news” of the conflict, said Pavel Chikov, whose Agora legal defense foundation is representing Ovsyannikova.
Though the strictest punishments carry a potential prison sentence of up to 15 years, Chikov said Ovsyannikova was likely to be fined Rbs30,000-Rbs60,000 ($ 245- $ 490).
Channel One told state newswire Ria Novosti it was investigating the incident.
In a video recorded beforehand and posted by Ovd-Info, a website that monitors arrests at protests, Ovsyannikova blamed Putin, Russia’s president, for the war and said she was ashamed of her role in it as a Channel One employee.
“What’s happening in Ukraine is a crime, and Russia is the aggressor. The responsibility for this aggression lies with one man: Vladimir Putin, ”Ovsyannikova said.
“Unfortunately, for the past few years I’ve been working for Channel One. I’ve been doing Kremlin propaganda and I’m very ashamed of it – that I let people lie from TV screens and allowed the Russian people to be zombified, “she added.
“Now the whole world has turned away from us, and 10 generations of our descendants won’t wash off this fratricidal war.”
Nearly 15,000 people have been detained in cities across Russia protesting against the war, according to data compiled by Ovd-Info.
At least 164 people have been charged under the new law, according to the Net Freedoms Project, a public defenders’ association for freedom of speech cases.
The law has also essentially destroyed what little remained of Russia’s independent media, with some outlets being forced to close and others shutting down voluntarily or deciding not to cover the war.