Anti-War Protester Fined After Disrupting Russian News Program

A Russian TV editor who protested Russia's invasion of Ukraine by interrupting a live news broadcast on Russian state television has been fined on a charge of calling for unsanctioned protests, Mediazona reported on March 15.

According to the website, the Ostankino district court ordered Marina Ovsyannikova to pay a fine of 30,000 rubles ($250).

Ovsyannikova appeared suddenly on March 14 behind the host of Vremya on Russia's Channel One holding a poster reading “NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They are lying to you” in Russian. The bottom line of the poster said “Russians against war” in English. She also shouted "Stop the war. No to war."

She could be seen and heard for several seconds before the channel switched to a different report.

Judge Anna Bolotnikova did not fine her for her protest action in the television studio, but for her video statement, which she recorded online before she entered the studio with the poster.

Bolotnikova found Ovsyannikova guilty under an article on attempting to organize an unsanctioned protest.

In the video statement, Ovsyannikova condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and called on Russian citizens to stage rallies against the ongoing war.

After the judge pronounced the ruling, Ovsyannikova told reporters that she was questioned for 14 hours without lawyers.

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"I literally spent two days without sleep," she said. "The interrogation went on for more than 14 hours. I was not allowed to either get in touch with my family and loved ones or provided with any legal assistance."

Ovsyannikova did not comment on whether she could be charged under a new law that Putin signed on March 5, which calls for sentences of up to 15 years in prison for people who distribute "false news" about the Russian Army, saying that she was too tired and will talk about it later.

"I found myself in a rather complicated situation, so let's postpone all further comment until tomorrow as I simply need to get some rest.”

The UN's human rights office called on Russian authorities to ensure that Ovsyannikova "does not face any reprisals for exercising her right to freedom of expression."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called her protest "hooliganism," but Ovsyannikova has been hailed elsewhere for her protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked Ovsyannikova in his nightly video address, saying he is “grateful to those Russians who do not stop trying to convey the truth” and cited “the woman who entered the studio of Channel One with a poster against the war" on March 14.

Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny lauded Ovsyannikova for her defiance during his final statement in court in an embezzlement and contempt case that he says is politically motivated.

"If you think that I am scared, and that you can scare everyone around, including the wonderful Marina Ovsyannikova, who not only carried out a protest action but also recorded a video and told us the powerful words that we must act. So remember you won't be able to put everyone behind bars," Navalny said.

Ovsyannikova's protest took place nearly three weeks into the war that began when Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in what the Russian president called a special military operation.

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 demilitarize and "de-Nazify" the country and to defend Russian-speakers there against "genocide."

Ukraine and most countries have condemned Russia’s invasion of a democratic country and said its pretexts were false and have imposed massive sanctions in response.

With reporting by Novaya Gazeta, AP, Reuters, and Sky News