An editor at the Kremlin’s flagship TV channel made the incredibly brave, albeit dangerous, decision to interrupt a broadcast this week to implore viewers to “stop the war” and not to “believe propaganda.”
On Monday, during an evening broadcast airing amid the second week of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, a woman identified on social media as Marina Ovsyannikova appeared on screen behind the journalist presenting the news.
Ovsyannikova shouted, “Stop the war. No to war!” while clutching a sign that read: “Don’t believe propaganda. They’re lying to you.” The poster was signed by “Russians against war.” A clip of the moment quickly went viral on Twitter.
Many lauded Ovsyannikova for her bravery while others, like journalist Julia Ioffe, elaborated even further: “This woman doubtless knew what doing this would mean for her—arrest and a long prison sentence—and did it anyway.”
Perviy Kanal (Channel 1), as its called in Russia, has been dubbed “the most influential state-run channel” by The Atlantic and has been widely criticized for how it’s portrayed the invasion of Ukraine. Cynthia Hooper, a Russia expert at the College of the Holy Cross, in Massachusetts told the publication that her takeaway from watching Channel 1 in recent weeks is that Russians on the network “seem nervous about going off script or even about what, exactly, their script is supposed to be.” While the network may have previously been a perfectly fine place for a Russian journalist to work, Hooper argues “now those same positions involve really nothing more than very, very deep complicity in manufacturing stories designed to bolster the Putin regime, fuel popular hatred against purported outsider enemies, and convey support for criminal and destructive government policies.”
Ovsyannikova was reportedly arrested and brought to Ostankino police department in Moscow after crashing the broadcast, as per Pavil Chikov. Financial Times’ Moscow Bureau Chief Max Seddon confirmed that Chikov’s “legal defense foundation is going to defend her against charges of ‘discrediting the Russian armed forces.’”
Prior to her appearance on Channel 1, it appears that Ovsyannikova recorded a video where she lambasts Russian President Vladimir Putin for instigating the war with Ukraine and effectively denounces her work at the network.
A translation of her message in the pre-recorded video, as per Seddon, features her saying:
“What’s happening in Ukraine is a crime, and Russia is the aggressor. The responsibility for this aggression lies with one man: Vladimir Putin. My father is Ukrainian, my mother is Russian, and they were never enemies. This necklace [shows] Russia must stop this fratricidal war. Unfortunately, for the last few years I’ve been working for Channel One. I’ve been doing Kremlin propaganda and I’m very ashamed of it – that I let people lie from TV screens and allowed the Russian people to be zombified. We didn’t say anything in 2014 when it only just began. We didn’t protest when the Kremlin poisoned Navalny. We just silently watched this inhuman regime. Now the whole world has turned away from us, and ten generations of our descendants won’t wash off this fratricidal war.
Since both the video of her interrupting the broadcast and her pre-recorded video denouncing Channel 1, Ovsyannikova’s Facebook page has exploded with commenters celebrating her and thanking her for her actions.
On Monday night, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky called out Ovsyannikova in a video address to his people. He reportedly told them that he was grateful to Russians who have been “telling the real facts to their friends, close ones, loved ones. And personally to the lady who walked into the studio of Channel 1 with a poster against the war. Those who aren’t afraid to protest.”