Russian state TV editor fined £200 after staging anti-war protest

15 March 2022, 05:46 | Updated: 15 March 2022, 16:35

Protester displays anti-war sign live on Russian state television

By Patrick Grafton-Green

An editor from a Russian state TV channel who stormed onto a live broadcast to display an anti-war message has been fined just over £200.

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Marina Ovsyannikova, an employee at Russia-1, was arrested on Monday after bursting onto screens brandishing a placard reading: "They're lying to you."

She appeared at a court in the Ostankino district of Moscow on Tuesday.

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An image shared widely on Russian media appeared to show her in court with lawyer Anton Gashinsky.

She was reportedly charged with "organising an unauthorised public event", leaving her facing a fine of up to 30,000 roubles (£215) or up to 10 days in prison.

There were fears, under new legislation recently passed in Russia, she could have faced up to 15 years in jail for speaking out against the country's invasion of Ukraine.

Reports earlier today suggested she was missing, with her lawyers saying they had no idea where she was being held and raising concerns they had not been allowed to see her.

One of Ms Ovsyannikova's lawyers, Pavel Chikov, said: "Marina's whereabouts have still not been established yet. She has been detained for more than 12 hours."

Dmitry Zakhvatov, another member of her legal team, told CNN he could not locate her.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised her bravery after her protest, which happened during Monday's 9pm news - one of the most watched programmes on the channel.

Ms Ovsyannikova, whose father is understood to be Ukrainian, appeared behind the newsreader shouting: "Stop the war. No to war."

She held aloft a sign reading: "Stop the war. Don't believe the propaganda. They're lying to you here."

Speaking during his daily address, Mr Zelenskyy said: "I am thankful to those Russians that do not cease trying to get the truth out, who fight against disinformation and tell the truth, tell real facts to their friends, relatives.

"And personally to the girl who entered the studio of Channel 1 with a poster against the war.

"To those who are not afraid to protest, before your country closes totally from the rest of the world, turning into a very big North Korea. You need to fight, you shouldn't miss your own chance."

Ms Ovsyannikova recorded a video before interrupting the broadcast in which she blamed Russian president Vladimir Putin for the conflict.

In it, she said: "What's happening in Ukraine is a crime, and Russia is the aggressor.

"The responsibility for this aggression lies with one man: Vladimir Putin.

"My father is Ukrainian, my mother is Russian, and they were never enemies."

She referred to a necklace she was wearing, saying it "shows Russia must stop this fratricidal war and our brotherly nations can make peace with each other".

She added: "Unfortunately, for the last few years I've been working for Channel 1. I've been doing Kremlin propaganda and I'm very ashamed of it.

"I'm ashamed that I allowed people to tell lies from television screens, that I allowed Russians to be turned into zombies.

"We didn't say anything in 2014 when all of this was just getting started," she continued.

"We didn't protest when the Kremlin poisoned Navalny. We just silently watched this inhumane regime.

"Now the whole world has turned away from us and ten generations of our descendants won't be able to wash away the shame of this fratricidal war."

The last thing she said in the clip was: "Don't be afraid. They can't put us all in prison."

The recording of the broadcast is not accessible on the channel's website but clips of it quickly emerged on social media after the incident.

State-run Tass news agency said: "Channel One is investigating an incident with an outsider in the frame during a live broadcast."