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‘They’re lying to you’: Staffer interrupts Russian TV to denounce Ukraine invasion

Marina Ovsyannikova arrested after displaying poster reading ‘No War,’ urging Russians not to believe propaganda; in video, she says: ‘Russia is an aggressor; Putin is responsible’

Marina Ovsyannikova, a Russian state TV employee, interrupts the evening news broadcast, holding a sign condemning President Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine on March 14, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)
Marina Ovsyannikova, a Russian state TV employee, interrupts the evening news broadcast, holding a sign condemning President Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine on March 14, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

NEW YORK — A live evening news program on Russia’s state television channel was interrupted Monday by a woman who walked into the studio holding a poster protesting the war in Ukraine.

An independent human rights group that monitors political arrests identified the woman as Marina Ovsyannikova. The group, OVD-Info, posted on its website that Ovsyannikova, who identified herself as an employee of the station, was taken into police custody.

The moment was a risky protest in a country where independent media has been blocked or shuttered and it has become illegal to contradict the government’s narrative of the war.

An anchor was speaking during the newscast when a woman appeared on camera behind her holding a sign with “No War” scrawled in English across the top, with a message in Russian saying: “Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here.” It was signed in English: “Russians against war.”

Within seconds, the news program cut away to another scene.

Russia’s state TV regularly amplifies the government line that says troops entered Ukraine to save people from “neo-Nazis” and to defend Russians from a country that was preparing to attack. The invasion of Ukraine is being characterized in Russia as a “special military operation.”

Ovsyannikova also spoke out against the war in a video on OVD-Info’s website.

“Regrettably, for a number of years, I worked on Channel One and worked on Kremlin propaganda, I am very ashamed of this right now,” she said, according to the Guardian. “Ashamed that I was allowed to tell lies from the television screen. Ashamed that I allowed the zombification of the Russian people. We were silent in 2014 when this was just beginning. We did not go out to protest when the Kremlin poisoned [opposition leader Alexei] Navalny,” she said.

Ovsyannikova, who wore a necklace with the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine’s in her video statement, said her father is Ukrainian and her mother is Russian. “What is going on now is a crime,” she said. “Russia is an aggressor country and Vladimir Putin is solely responsible for that aggression.”

She urged fellow Russians to join anti-war protests in order to bring an end to the conflict. “Only we have the power to stop all this madness. Go to the protests. Don’t be afraid of anything. They can’t imprison us all.”

 

Speaking in a video address early Tuesday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky praised Ovsyannikova.

People in Russia have limited access to information from outside their country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed into law a measure that criminalizes the spread of information that is considered by the Kremlin to be “fake” news.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin appears on a television screen at the stock market in Frankfurt, Germany, Feb. 25, 2022. (Michael Probst/AP)

Media outlets and individuals who publish information that deviates from Putin’s narrative are being targeted.

There have been blocks imposed on the BBC, the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza.

Russia has also blocked social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

ToI staff contributed to this report.

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