Russia state TV editor who staged protest accused of being 'British spy' by former colleague

22 March 2022, 09:28

Protester displays anti-war sign live on Russian state television

By Emma Soteriou

A Russian state TV editor who staged an on-screen protest has been accused of being a British spy who "spoke to the British embassy" before protesting on TV by a former colleague.

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Marina Ovsyannikova stormed onto a live Russia-1 broadcast to display an anti-war message earlier this month, brandishing a placard saying "stop the war" and "they're lying to you". She resigned and was later fined by a court in Russia.

Her former colleague, Kirill Kleymenov, who is the deputy general director of Channel One and a presenter, accused her of being a "traitor" on air.

"Prior to [going on air with her anti-war poster], according to our information, Marina Ovsyannikova spoke with the British embassy," said Mr Kleymenov.

"Which one of you was on the phone with a foreign embassy?"

He said she not only betrayed her country but also "all of us, people with whom she has worked side by side for almost 20 years".

"She betrays coldly, prudently, for a firmly agreed [financial] bonus - by the way, so as not to lose her previous one.

"The woman with the poster timed the action exactly to receive her next salary payment - so betrayal is always one's personal choice."

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Channel One editor Marina Ovsyannikova and her lawyer before a court session
Channel One editor Marina Ovsyannikova and her lawyer before a court session. Picture: Alamy

Mr Kleymenov added: "It is necessary to call things by their proper names.

"Otherwise, if the famous action for 30 pieces of silver coins were called an impulse of the soul, the history of the world would be different.

"Just in case, I wish everyone good health. To all without exception. Even traitors. They have to continue to live with this burden."

Speaking about her protest, Mr Kleymenov said: "Emotional impulse is one thing.

"But betrayal is something else."

It comes as the Kremlin has restricted most content as the Ukraine conflict continues, in a bid to spread propaganda through state media without Western influence.

Ms Ovsyannikova was 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.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised her bravery in his daily address following the incident.