An anti-war protester has interrupted a live evening news programme on Russia’s state television, holding up a sign behind the studio presenter that said “NO WAR. Stop the war” and “Don’t believe the propaganda”.
The act of dissent at Channel One’s studios on Monday came on day 19 of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, amid what human rights groups have called an “unprecedented, nationwide crackdown on independent journalism, anti-war protests and dissenting voices” in Russia.
The sign held up by the female protester read in English and Russian: “NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They are lying to you here.”
Another phrase, which looked like “Russians against war”, was partly obscured.
She could be heard shouting “Stop the war. No to war”, as the news anchor continued to read from her teleprompter.
After several seconds, the channel switched to a different report to remove the protester from the screen.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the woman in his nightly video address:
“I am grateful to those Russians who do not stop trying to convey the truth. To those who fight disinformation and tell the truth, real facts to their friends and loved ones,” Zelenskyy said. “And personally to the woman who entered the studio of Channel One with a poster against the war.”
Kira Yarmysh, spokeswoman for jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny, wrote on Twitter: “Wow, that girl is cool.”
She posted a video of the incident, which quickly notched up more than 2.6 million views.
Вау. Девушка крутая pic.twitter.com/QXC6s4DPki
— Кира Ярмыш (@Kira_Yarmysh) March 14, 2022
State television is the main source of news for many Russians, and closely follows the Kremlin line that Russia was forced to act in Ukraine to demilitarise and “denazify” the country, and to defend Russian-speakers there against “genocide”.
Ukraine and most of the world have condemned that as a false pretext for an invasion of a democratic and sovereign nation.
The woman was named by OVD-Info, an independent protest-monitoring group, and by the head of the Agora human rights group, as Marina Ovsyannikova, an employee of the channel.
Pavel Chikov, head of Agora, said Ovsyannikova had been arrested and taken to a Moscow police station. Tass news agency said she may face charges under a law against discrediting the armed forces, citing a law enforcement source.
The law, passed on March 4, makes public actions aimed at discrediting Russia’s army illegal and bans the spread of “fake” news or the “public dissemination of deliberately false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”.
The offence carries a jail term of up to 15 years.
In a video recorded before the incident and posted online, a woman who appeared to be Ovsyannikova described herself as a Channel One employee and said she was ashamed to have worked for years spreading Kremlin propaganda. She said her father was Ukrainian, and her mother, Russian.
“What is happening now in Ukraine is a crime, and Russia is the aggressor country. The responsibility for that aggression lies on the conscience of only one man, and that man is Vladimir Putin,” she said.
“Now the whole world has turned away from us and the next 10 generations of our descendants will not wash away the shame of this fratricidal war,” she said.
She urged Russians to go out and demonstrate.
Authorities have broken up anti-war protests. According to OVD-Info, which monitors protests and provides legal assistance to those detained, 14,911 people have been arrested.