Anti-war protester Marina Ovsyannikova interrupts a live Russian TV show

The heroic act comes as the Russian government continues to extinguish anti-war messaging by banning protests, independent journalism and social networks

(Image credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The heroic act comes as the Russian government continues to extinguish anti-war messaging by banning protests, independent journalism and social networks

The same day that Putin stopped access to Instagram in Russia, a TV editor interrupted a live evening news programme on the country’s state television with an anti-war message. 

In an extraordinary act of dissent, Marina Ovsyannikova, an employee of the channel and mother of two, emerged onscreen behind the news anchor while holding up a giant placard. Written in both English and Russian, the sign read: “NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They are lying to you here.”

The presenter continued reading from her monitor while Marina could be heard shouting “Stop the war. No to war”. The channel responded by cutting away to a recorded report.

On March 4, Putin passed a new law making so-called “fake news” illegal in Russia. According to the Kremlin, describing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “war” is fake news, as are reports of the Russian airstrike that hit a maternity hospital in Ukraine. 

The law means that any public actions aiming to discredit the Kremlin’s official position or its armed forces are punishable with a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

State television is the main source of news for many Russians, even more so now that Putin has banned Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and many independent media outlets. Called Channel One, the broadcaster has been relaying the official Kremlin stance that Russia was forced to invade and “denazify” Ukraine as a way of defending Russian-speakers in the country against a supposed genocide. 

According to an independent protest-monitoring group OVD-Info, Marina is "presumably" at a police station in Moscow, but where she is for sure "is still unknown". 

Meanwhile, a pre-recorded video of Marina making a statement has surfaced. In the clip, Maria talks about the fact her father was Ukrainian and that what’s happening in Ukraine is a “crime”. 

“Sadly, during the past years I worked at Channel One,” she said. “I spread the Kremlin propaganda and I am very ashamed of this. I am ashamed I allowed lies to be told on TV screens. I am ashamed I allowed Russian people to be fooled.”

She continued: “We, the Russians, are wise and proud. It is up to us to stop this madness. Come out to protest, do not be afraid. They cannot put all of us in jail.” 

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OVD-Info claims nearly 15,000 protestors have been arrested in Russia so far. 

In his daily video address, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy paid special thanks to Marina last night.

“I am grateful to those Russians who do not stop trying to convey the truth,” he said. “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.”

It's easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed about what's going on, but there are ways we can all support Ukraine in its fight. From donating to fundraising initiatives to welcoming refugees into our homes, we can all do our bit to stand with Ukraine.

Kate Hollowood
Kate Hollowood is a freelance journalist and writes about a range of topics for Marie Claire UK, from reports on royal news and current affairs to features on health, careers and relationships. Based in London, Kate has also written for titles like the i paper, Refinery29, Cosmopolitan and It’s Nice That.