A journalist protests the war on live Russian TV.
(Via Twitter)
Civic Life

Journalist who protested Ukraine war on live Russian TV is released after 14 hours of questioning

A journalist held who up an antiwar sign behind the anchorwoman of one of Russia’s most-watched news shows was released after her arrest.

A news broadcast on Russian state television that was crashed by an antiwar protester has become a symbol of Moscow’s determination to control the domestic narrative on its invasion of Ukraine and of the risks some Russians are taking to voice their opposition.

During a live segment Monday on “Vremya,” one of the most-watched Russian news shows, journalist Marina Ovsyannikova could be seen walking up behind a seated anchor and holding up a white poster with the words “No war” in English. Below, in Russian, were the phrases, “Stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here.”

The program, which airs on state-controlled Channel 1, quickly cut away to another shot, silencing Ovsyannikova’s protest in a country where journalists must follow the state line on the Ukraine war or risk imprisonment.

President Vladimir Putin’s government has declared its attack on Ukraine to be a freedom-fighting “special military operation” to root out the “neo-Nazis” who it says control the Ukrainian government. Journalists were banned this month from describing Russia’s attacks on Ukraine as a “war.” Many international news organizations have pulled their reporters out of Russia as a result.

Ovsyannikova, an editor at the station, was arrested and identified by OVD-Info, an independent human rights group. In a video posted online before her protest, she described being “ashamed” for her role in spreading Russian propaganda.

“I’m ashamed that I allowed myself to tell lies from the television screen. Ashamed that I allowed Russians to be turned into zombies,” she says in the video. “We just silently watched this inhumane regime.

“What is going on now is a crime,” she said. “Russia is an aggressor country and Vladimir Putin is solely responsible for that aggression.”

Ovsyannikova, whose father is Ukrainian, called on Russians to “stop the madness” and oppose the war. Since the invasion began Feb. 24, thousands of people across the country have been arrested for participating in protests against the war.

On Tuesday, lawyers representing Ovsyannikova said she was charged with holding an unauthorized public event. The journalist, who was released Tuesday after she said she underwent 14 hours of police questioning, faced a fine of less than $300 for the video she made before the protest.

Ovsyannikova still awaits the outcome of charges for the “no war” statement on TV. The punishment could include up to 10 days in jail.

“I spent two days without sleep,” Ovsyannikova, who spoke outside a courtroom, said in a recorded video that was posted on Telegram by a Russian news site. “I wasn’t allowed to contact my relatives or people close to me.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.