Russian TV protester resigns, turns down asylum offer

Marina Ovsyannikova says she has refused an asylum offer in France despite potentially facing further prosecution.

Marina Ovsyannikova, the editor at the state broadcaster Channel One who protested against Russian military action in Ukraine during the evening news broadcast at the station late Monday, speaks to the media as she leaves the Ostankinsky District Court after being fined for 30,000 rubles ($280, 247 euros) for breaching protest laws in Moscow
Marina Ovsyannikova has been fined for 30,000 roubles ($290) for breaching protest laws in Moscow [AFP]

Russia’s Channel One editor Marina Ovsyannikova says she has quit her job but refused to accept an asylum offer in France after publicly challenging the Kremlin’s narrative about the war in Ukraine on live TV.

Ovsyannikova was detained and rapidly fined 30,000 roubles ($290) for barging onto the set of flagship Vremya (Time) evening news on Monday holding a poster reading “No War” and “They are lying to you here”.

Speaking to France 24, the editor said she had “handed in all the documents” for her resignation from Channel One. “It’s a legal procedure,” she said.

Ovsyannikova, who has two young children, said she had “broken the life of our family with this gesture”, with her son in particular showing anxiety.

“But we need to put an end to this fratricidal war so this madness does not turn into nuclear war. I hope when my son is older he will understand why I did this,” she said.

She added some of her colleagues had resigned but many were unable to do so due to economic concerns.

“I am happy that people handed in their notice, but the economic situation is very hard and people find it very hard to stop their work,” she said.

A person interrupts a live news bulletin on Russia's state TV "Channel One" holding up a sign that reads "NO WAR
Marina Ovsyannikova holds up a sign that reads “NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They are lying to you here.” [Channel One/Reuters]

In a separate interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel, Ovsyannikova said she would not take up an asylum offer put forward by France’s President Emmanuel Macron and would stay in Russia.

“I don’t want to leave our country. I am a patriot, my son is even more so. We don’t want to leave in any way, we don’t want to go anywhere,” she said.

Despite having been freed, she could face further prosecution, risking years in prison under draconian new laws approved on March 4 that limit freedom of speech about the war in Ukraine.

Press freedom activists outside Russia accuse state television of painting a severely distorted picture of the war in a bid to maintain support for what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation”.

Ovsyannikova told the German daily that most of her colleagues were aware of their role in spreading misinformation.

“They know only too well that they are doing something wrong,” she said.

State television, the main source of news for many Russians, 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’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed gratitude “to those who fight disinformation and tell the truth”.

“And personally to the woman who entered the studio of Channel One with a poster against the war,” Zelenskyy said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies