International

Russian journalist explains why she staged anti-war protest on live TV

The Russian journalist fined for holding up an anti-war sign during a live broadcast on a state-run news channel told CNN on Wednesday that leading up to the now-viral protest, she was “feeling a cognitive dissonance” between “my beliefs and what we say on air.”

Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor at popular Russian broadcaster Channel One, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour the dissonance “kept increasing every year.”

“The war was the point of no return,” she said. “I realized that I either would need to do something or we would reach a point of no return and it would be more and more difficult to do anything.”

On Monday, Ovsyannikova ran behind a news anchor holding up a sign that read: “Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They’re lying to you here.”

She was quickly detained by authorities, and on Tuesday was fined around $270 for organizing unsanctioned actions.

Russia’s Investigative Committee is probing whether Ovsyannikova might also be charged with publicly spreading false information, The Associated Press reported.

Ovsyannikova said she hopes to avoid criminal charges, but does not currently fear for her life or those of her children, who she said are safe.

The journalist also described how she carried out the protest. She told CNN that Channel One is largely an open area, so she seized an opportunity to burst pass a guard in front of the studio with her poster. 

“I wanted to show to the world that Russians are against the war, the majority of Russians,” she said, adding that  even Russians supporting what they are being told is a “special military operation” are pacifists. “Our life changed overnight. Russians are really scared by what’s going on.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, in what President Vladimir Putin called a “special military operation” intended to save Ukrainians from genocide and “denazify” the country.

State-run news channels and outlets are unable to even refer to the invasion as a war, and must instead call it a “special military operation” or face up to 15 years in jail under a new law passed by the Russian Parliament.

Ovsyannikova said Russia is divided evenly between those who support the war and those who don’t, but said supporters are “brainwashed,” including her own mother.

“State propaganda is blaring from every state TV channel from morning until night,” she said on CNN. “There is an information war.”

Because of her protest, Ovsyannikova said more journalists were resigning from government-controlled news channels.

“I think this is becoming a public demonstration,” she said. “Many are feeling a disconnect between reality and what we say on air.”

Tags Channel One Marina Ovsyannikova Russia Russian journalist Russian state media Vladimir Putin

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