Ukraine war: Russian TV protester 'extremely worried' for her safety

‘Bravest woman on TV’ says she is extremely worried about her safety but will NOT leave Russia after she was fined £210 over anti-war State television protest

  • Marina Ovsyannikova, 43, fears for her safety after walking free from court 
  • Mother-of-two was fined just £210 for protesting the Ukraine war live on television, raising fears the Kremlin is not done punishing her 
  • Despite safety concerns, mother-of-two says she has no plans to leave Russia 
  • Ovsyannikova says she hopes people will realise they are being fed propaganda 

A Russian journalist who defied Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on free speech to denounce his war on Ukraine on live TV has said she fears for her safety but does not plant to leave the country.

Marina Ovsyannikova, 43, dubbed the ‘bravest women on television’, said she is ‘extremely concerned’ for her safety after being handed a £210 fine by a Russian court amid fears – a mere fraction of the retaliation that had been expected.

Ovsyannikova, speaking on Wednesday, said she hopes that her protest against the war was not in vain and that Russians would start to realise they are being fed  propaganda by state media.  

The former news editor shot to global prominence on Monday when she stormed on to the set of state-controlled Channel One waving an anti-war sign. 

Marina Ovsyannikova, a  Russian journalist who hijacked prime-time TV news to denounce the war in Ukraine walked free from court last night –but could still face up to 15 years behind bars

A highly regarded employee of the channel, the mother-of-two held a placard reading ‘Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They’re lying to you’.

She then released a pre-recorded video statement calling on ordinary Russians to protest and ‘stop the madness’.

Miss Ovsyannikova’s exceptional act of defiance against Vladimir Putin quickly went viral, winning praise from world leaders and sparking calls for her to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

But once she was arrested, there were fears she would disappear, as many critics of the Kremlin do.

Her lawyer said he could not make contact with the journalist or find her at the notorious police station she was said to be held in, raising concerns for her safety.

Then yesterday afternoon, Miss Ovsyannikova suddenly appeared at Moscow’s Ostankino district court, where a judge ordered her to pay a £210 fine (30,000 roubles) and released her.

She could have faced a maximum punishment of 10 days in detention for calling for illegal protests.

However, the charge was based only on the video – not her interruption of the news broadcast.

So it is feared that her ordeal is far from over as Kremlin cronies yesterday called for her to be locked up for several years.

Miss Ovsyannikova could still be slapped with the more serious new criminal charge brought in to stamp out ‘fake news’ about Russia’s invasion.

The new law has made it a crime to call the conflict a ‘war’ instead of military operation and carries a jail sentence of up to 15 years.

Russia’s state-run Tass news agency reported that Moscow’s Investigative Committee, a major crime unit, had opened a case on the journalist,

Ovsyannikova, 43, was arrested following her protest, in which she interrupted a live Channel One broadcast with an anti-war placard (pictured behind  broadcaster Ekaterina Andreeva)

Channel One editor Marina Ovsyannikova was accused of the ‘Violation of the established procedure for organizing or holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession or picketing’

What is happening right now in Ukraine is a crime and Russia is the aggressor. And the responsibility for this aggression lies on the conscience of only one person. This man is Vladimir Putin.

My father is Ukrainian. My mother is Russian. And they were never enemies. And this necklace on my neck is a symbol of the fact Russia must immediately stop the fratricidal war.

And then our brotherly peoples will still be able to reconcile.

Unfortunately, in recent years I have been working on Channel One, working for Kremlin’s propaganda. And I am very ashamed of it. I’m ashamed that I was letting them tell those lies from the screen. I am ashamed that I allowed Russians to be turned into zombies.

We kept silent in 2014 when all this was just beginning. We didn’t go to the rallies when the Kremlin poisoned Navalny. We just silently watched this inhumane regime.

And now the whole world has turned away from us. And even 10 generations of our descendants will not be enough to wash away the shame of this fratricidal war.

We are Russian people – thoughtful and smart. It’s up to us to stop this madness. Come out to the rallies. Don’t be afraid of anything. They can’t imprison all of us.

It was said to be gathering evidence against her for ‘knowingly spreading false information’ about the use of Russia’s armed forces.

On the steps of the court after her release, Miss Ovsyannikova, who was previously married to a director at state-controlled Russia Today, revealed that she had been barred from contacting her lawyers during a 14-hour interrogation.

‘It’s been a really difficult day in my life,’ she said, looking very tired.

‘I’ve gone two days without sleep, more than 14 hours in custody, they didn’t allow me to contact those close to me or to receive any legal counsel… so I found myself in a really tough situation.

‘I want to thank everyone for their support,’ Miss Ovsyannikova said, adding that she was too exhausted to answer any more questions and ‘needed to rest’ before she could reveal more.

She had been swiftly detained after interrupting Russia’s most famous anchor, Ekaterina Andreeva, on its main nightly news programme, Vremya, which is watched by 250million people.

A friend of the journalist, who was able to bypass security as an employee at the directorate of information programs at the channel, said that she had been planning her protest for days.

Miss Ovsyannikova, whose father is Ukrainian and mother is Russian and is believed to have been born in Odessa, is said to have grown increasingly angry over the bloody invasion.

‘The anger has been building up with her ever since the war started. Two days ago, she told me how she was going to do it,’ the friend told The Guardian.

Miss Ovsyannikova’s outstanding act of defiance yesterday saw the Ukrainian president personally thank her for her brave efforts and even saw France offer her sanctuary as a refugee.

British MPs are also lobbying for her to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, while almost 50,000 social media users showered her Facebook page with messages of support and praise.

Pictured: Miss Ovsyannikova’s status as a senior television editor at the station meant she was able to get access to the broadcasting centre, and was not stopped by any armed guards

Last night, French president Emmanuel Macron said his country would be willing to give Miss Ovsyannikova diplomatic protection and asylum and would personally raise her case with Putin.

During his morning video address yesterday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the journalist for her brave efforts to tell the ‘truth’.

‘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. 

‘And personally to the woman who entered the studio of Channel One with a poster against the war,’ he said. A pre-recorded video was released after the protest in which she called the events in Ukraine a ‘crime’ and said she was ashamed to work for what she called Kremlin 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 explained.

‘We just silently watched this inhumane regime.’

State-controlled Russian media refer to the war as a ‘special military operation’, painting Ukraine as the aggressor, and have been spewing anti-Ukraine rhetoric, including calling its elected government neo-Nazis.

The Kremlin has also blocked social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook in it efforts to control the country’s citizens with its propaganda.

Pictured: 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, leaves the Ostankinsky District Court after being fined for 30,000 rubles

Miss Ovsyannikova called on the Russian people to protest against the war, saying that only they could ‘stop the madness’.

‘Don’t be afraid of anything, they can’t imprison all of us,’ she signed off, wearing a necklace bearing the colours of both Russian and Ukrainian flags.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the stunt, along with other demonstrations in Russia, demonstrated a ‘huge degree of bravery’.

He told BBC Breakfast that such acts were ‘incredibly important’, adding: ‘It shows a huge degree of bravery for those individuals to protest against what we know is an oppressive, authoritarian state, but it’s really important that the Russian people understand what is being done in their name.

‘They have been systematically lied to by Vladimir Putin and it’s really important they understand the truth of what’s going on.’

Bernie Sanders, the left-wing US senator, said her protest showed ‘an incredible act of courage’.

Channel One said it was investigating the incident, while the Kremlin yesterday branded Miss Ovsyannikova’s valiant protest as an act of ‘hooliganism’.

‘As far as this woman is concerned, this is hooliganism,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said and he praised Channel One for what he called its quality, objective and timely programming.

Before her TV career, Miss Ovsyannikova was a competitive swimmer who crossed the Volga river in Russia and the Bosphorus waterway in Turkey.

She graduated from Kuban State University before achieving a master’s degree from Russia’s Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.

Almost 15,000 people have been detained across Russia during anti-war protests while media outlets and journalists who deviate from Mr Putin’s narrative are being targeted.

One of Russia’s top presenters, Liliya Gildeyeva, 45, was among at least three other journalists to quit their jobs on state-controlled media in defiance in recent days.

She had been the leading anchor on Gazprom-Media’s NTV channel since 2006, where she had worked for more than a decade-and-a-half.

‘At first I left, I was afraid they wouldn’t let me go, then I wrote my resignation letter,’ she told blogger Ilya Varlamov.

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