Woman in Russian state TV protest showed ‘huge bravery’, says UK minister

The woman, said to be an employee of Channel One, interrupted a live news broadcast and urged Russians not to believe Moscow propaganda about Ukraine.

15 March 2022

A woman who interrupted a live news bulletin on Russian state TV to protest against the invasion of Ukraine has been praised by a UK minister for her “huge degree of bravery”.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the stunt, along with other demonstrations in Russia, was “really important” in arming those in Russia – where it has become illegal to contradict President Vladimir Putin’s narrative of the war – with the truth about the conflict.

On Monday evening, an anchor on state-controlled Channel One was speaking during a newscast when a woman appeared on camera behind her holding a sign with “No war” scrawled in English across the top and a message in Russian below it, calling on people not to believe Moscow propaganda.

Marina Ovsyannikova during the protest on Russian state TV
Marina Ovsyannikova during the protest on Russian state TV (Screengrab/PA)

An independent human rights group that monitors political arrests identified the woman as Marina Ovsyannikova.

The group, OVD-Info, posted on its website that Ms Ovsyannikova, who identified herself as an employee of the TV station, was taken into police custody.

Mr Cleverley told BBC Breakfast: “We see people protesting on the streets in Russia. We saw that protest on the Russian news programme.

“These are incredibly important.

“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.”

Russia Ukraine War
Police detain a demonstrator during a protest in St Petersburg against Russia’s attack on Ukraine (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP)

Ms Ovsyannikova, who some reports have identified as an editor for Channel One, spoke out against the war in a video on OVD-Info’s website.

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

Speaking in a video address early on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised Ms Ovsyannikova’s actions.

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

Internally, 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 assault on Ukraine is being characterised in Russia as a “special military operation”, with any suggestion of a war being waged against Kyiv branded as “fake news” by the Kremlin.

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

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