Russian TV journalist fined for protesting Ukraine war on air

A Russian woman who denounced the war in Ukraine during a live news broadcast on state television was fined 30,000 rubles ($280) on Tuesday, a court said, after the Kremlin denounced her protest action as a “riot”.

The court said that Marina Ovsyannikova, an employee of Channel One, was convicted of violating the protest laws. It was not immediately clear if she would also face other, more serious charges. Her lawyer could not be reached for comment.

Ovsyannikova staged an extraordinary opposition display on Monday night when she waved an anti-war banner behind a studio presenter reading the news on Channel One and chanted slogans condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The sign reads in both English and Russian: “No to war. Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They are lying to you here.”

State TV, which broadcasts the Kremlin’s narrative in homes across Russia’s 11 time zones, portrays the invasion as a “special military operation”, ignoring the humanitarian crisis, the damage to cities and the mounting death toll.

Ovsianikova urged Russians not to indulge in state propaganda, a message that won praise from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky but was soon rejected in Moscow.

“With regard to this woman, this is a riot,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “The channel and those who are supposed to get to the truth of the matter,” he told reporters, describing Channel One as a pillar of timely and objective news.

After the session, Ovsianikova told reporters that she was exhausted, she was interrogated for more than 14 hours, she was not allowed to talk to her relatives and did not have legal help. She said she needed to rest before commenting further.

Her protest has raised fears among her sympathizers that she could be tried under a new law punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Moscow has instilled a “great fear” of expressing its opposition to the Ukraine war

The law, adopted eight days after the invasion of Ukraine, makes illegal public actions aimed at discrediting the Russian military and prohibits the spread of false news or the “public dissemination of intentionally false information” about the use of the Russian armed forces.

Officials in Moscow describe the Russian attack in Ukraine as a special military operation to disarm the country and prevent “genocide” against Russian speakers, a justification that Ukraine and the West have rejected as a false pretext to invade a democratic country.

In a video recorded before her protest, Ovsianikova blamed Putin by name and said: “The next ten generations of our grandchildren will not wash away the shame of this fratricidal war.”

UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani praised “this very brave journalist”.

“We urge the authorities to ensure that they are not subjected to any reprisals for exercising their right to freedom of expression,” she told a news briefing in Geneva.

Nearly 15,000 people have been arrested across Russia during anti-war protests since February 24, according to a tally kept by OVD-Info, an independent protest monitoring group.

Shamdasani said it was not clear how many remained in detention. “Unfortunately, we do not have access to the detainees,” she said.

(1 dollar = 107.2500 rubles)

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