Woman who showed message against war in Ukraine on Russian TV is fined and released

The woman who disrupted live news broadcast on Russian state television channel Channel 1 on Monday night with a message against the war in Ukraine has been fined 30,000 rubles and released.

Marina Ovsyannikova (44) appeared in court with her lawyer Anton Gashinsky yesterday afternoon, after nothing had been heard from her since Monday evening.

Ovsyannikova was not charged with publishing “false information” about the Russian military, the most serious charge feared. That carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. She herself pleaded not guilty.

Ovsyannikova, who has been hailed as a true heroine in the West, appeared on-screen Monday behind Channel One’s news anchor and held up a sign that read, “NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They are lying to you here. Russians Against the War.” She also shouted slogans against the war in Ukraine. It took about six seconds for the director to switch to a report.

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The woman, an employee of the propaganda channel who she says, is sorry about “all the lies she helped spread earlier,” was immediately arrested.

Initially, it sounded that an administrative case had been launched against her, but the Russian news agency TASS reported a pre-investigation for criminal proceedings on Tuesday morning.

In the process, she would be charged with “a crime under the article of the Criminal Code on the deliberate public dissemination of false information surrounding the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation.”

Marina Ovsyannikova recorded a video message just before her action.
Marina Ovsyannikova recorded a video message just before her action. ©Marina Ovsyannikova via REUTERS

Cellular punishment

That can make a big difference when it comes to penalties. In an administrative case, she could get away with a fine, but in the criminal case, she was facing a prison sentence. This could have gone up to fifteen years, based on a law on fake news that was approved earlier this month by the Russian parliament, but it did not come to that.

TASS first claimed that the woman was detained by the police of the Ostankino district of Moscow. However, Pavel Chikov, the head of human rights organization Agora, reported on social media that no one had seen her since her arrest and that even her lawyer did not get to her. The latter even said that no one knew where she was. “She urgently needs to be protected,” it sounded.

Ukrainian father

Ovsyannikova, according to a source at TASS Russian authorities, is said to be from Odessa, where she was born in 1978. She herself previously said that her mother was Russian and her father, Ukrainian.

Colleagues of the woman reacted with surprise to her protest action. This is what a friend of Ovsyannikova told independent Russian journalist Farida Rustamova. “They said they never heard her talk about politics,” she echoed. “It was mostly about her children, her dogs and her house.”

Another friend told the British newspaper “The Guardian” that Ovsyannikova had informed her of her plans the day before. “Her anger about the war had been festering for a while,” said the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous. “Two days ago, she told me how she wanted to do it.”

Ovsyannikova had been working for several years as an editor for the state broadcaster’s foreign editorial department, translating foreign quotes into Russian. She also did video reviews. Monday was an ordinary working day for her, and she showed up nicely on time as usual.

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The news program “The Vremya” is broadcast live three times a day, and the set is guarded by several people. One of them sits just a few feet from the news anchor. Why the security man did not respond on Monday night is not known.

Perhaps he was not alarmed to see Ovsyannikova because she had been working for the station for so long. During filming, makeup artists also come near the anchor to touch up their makeup. Perhaps security had not recognized her.

Internal investigation

Channel One has reportedly launched an internal investigation around the incident. The channel is the main source of news for millions of Russians and follows the discourse of the Kremlin.

As recently as Tuesday morning, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin called Ovsyannikova “a hooligan.” According to Dmitry Peskov, Channel One and the police will continue to follow up the case, and the Kremlin will not get involved. He further praised the propaganda channel for its “high-quality, up-to-date, very fast and objective information.”

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