A Russian public television employee who protested the war in Ukraine on prime-time television was fined 30,000 rubles (about 250 euros) on Tuesday and still faces prison.
Marina Ovsyannikova, editor-in-chief of Kremlin-backed Channel One, briefly jumped behind a newsreader on Monday holding up a sign that read, “No war. Stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here. Russians against the war.
“I thank everyone for their support”, Ovsyannikova noted after she was released, and told reporters she was interrogated by police for more than 14 hours, banned from talking to relatives and denied access to a lawyer . “Those were really, really tough days in my life because I literally went two days without sleep,” she added.
Earlier Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned Ovsyannikova’s actions and called her protest “hooliganism,” which in Russia is a crime.
But his protest could still face another criminal investigation under new censorship laws. Russian lawmakers rushed new free speech laws through parliament on March 4 that threaten those who spread ‘fake news’ about the Russian military with up to 15 years in prison – a move that has forced foreign media , including Bloomberg and the BBC, to suspend operations amid concerns for the safety of journalists.
In a video posted on Telegram ahead of the protest, Ovsyannikova – who is half-Russian, half-Ukrainian – confessed she was “very ashamed” of contributing to “Kremlin propaganda” during her time at Channel One while criticizing Russia’s role in the war. “What is happening in Ukraine is a crime, and Russia is the aggressor,” she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron also said tuesday he would raise the television editor’s case with Russian President Vladimir Putin and offer diplomatic protection to Ovsyannikova.
More than 14,000 Russians have been arrested for protests in the first 17 days of the war, according to watchdog group OVD-Info, as police resort to increasingly brutal tactics for minor acts of public condemnation – with videos to surface on social media showing protesters taken away for holding up blank signs.