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Russian State TV Anti-War Protester Appears in Court, Gets Fined

Marina Ovsyannikova speaks to the media as she leaves the Ostankinsky District Court after being fined for 30,000 rubles ($280) for breaching protest laws in Moscow on March 15, 2022.

A Russian state media employee detained after her anti-war protest on live TV has appeared in court and was fined $280.

Marina Ovsyannikova held up a sign during a live broadcast on Russian’s Channel One on Monday that read in Russian, “NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They are lying to you.” The bottom line, in English, read, “Russians against war.”

She was accused of violating the country’s protest laws. It is unclear if she will face additional charges.

The Kremlin on Tuesday said Ovsyannikova’s actions amount to “hooliganism.”

A spokesperson for the U.N. human rights office said at a briefing Tuesday that Russia should ensure that Ovsyannikova “does not face any reprisals for exercising her right to freedom of expression.”

Ovsyannikova appeared unexpectedly Monday behind the host of Russia’s main evening TV news program, Vremya, as the host sat at the studio desk discussing the Kremlin’s plans to ease the effects of Western sanctions applied to Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Ovsyannikova shouted "Stop the war. No to war," as she held up a sign.

After several seconds, the channel switched to another report.

Ovsyannikova’s protest occurred after the Kremlin blocked or shuttered independent media and made it illegal to contradict the government's narrative of Russia’s military action in Ukraine.

Novaya Gazeta, the renowned Russian news outlet run by Nobel Peace laureate Dmitry Muratov, on Monday reported on the protest on social media, but blurred out the sign Ovsyannikova was holding.

In a social media post, Novaya Gazeta said that a protester appeared behind the news show host, holding “a poster with content that we are not allowed to report on by [media regulator] Roskomnadzor and the criminal code.”

Ovsyannikova earlier uploaded a video in which she criticized the war in Ukraine, saying “What is going on now is a crime,” and adding that “Vladimir Putin is solely responsible.”

Investigators on Tuesday were trying to determine if Ovsyannikova could be prosecuted under the law that took effect eight days after the Feb. 24 invasion and allows for maximum 15-year prison sentences.

Russia's state TV routinely reiterates the government’s claim that its “special military operation” is aimed at saving Ukrainians from “neo-Nazi’s” and defending Russians from imminent Ukrainian attacks.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, cited Ovsyannikova’s case in his daily Telegram address Tuesday, saying in Russian, “I am grateful to those Russians who do not cease trying to get the truth out, who fight against disinformation.”

Some information for this report came from RFE/RL, The Associated Press and Reuters.