TV protester Marina Ovsyannikova speaks from hiding: ‘I am enemy # 1’

Marina Ovsyannikova seen here (in a still image taken from a video uploaded on March 14, 2022) makes a statement recorded before holding an anti-war sign live in the air.

Marina Ovsyannikova via Reuters

Marina Ovsyannikova, the Russian journalist who protested against the war in Ukraine on live state television, has told international media that she remains patriotic towards her country and refuses to leave, even though she fears serious consequences from the authorities.

Out of hiding, Ovsyannikova said she would not accept an offer of asylum from French President Emmanuel Macron, despite calling herself “enemy No. 1” in Russia’s efforts to crack down on anti-war dissent.

“I do not want to leave Russia. I am a patriot,” she told German news site Der Spiegel.

“Of course I’m scared. Very scared even … Anything could happen – a car accident, whatever they want,” she added, referring to the Kremlin.

The editor of Russia’s state-owned Channel One made headlines last week after intercepting a live news broadcast with a sign condemning the aggression in Ukraine and shouting “stop the war”.

The 43-year-old was later fined 30,000 rubles ($ 280) by a Russian court for a video she recorded before the live protest, which shows she condemns her own role in the broadcast of “Kremlin propaganda” . But Ovsyannikova said she is worried there could be worse consequences.

“I am enemy # 1 here now,” she said, noting that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred to the act as “hooliganism” and referred to rumors that senior officials had called for prosecution of criminals.

In life, you have to react and make decisions that are often complicated.

It is now illegal in Russia to refer to the invasion of Ukraine as a war under a new law designed to crack down on public disagreement. The law, which also makes it illegal to discredit Russia’s army, carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Ovsyannikova, who is half-Ukrainian and half-Russian, has not yet been the subject of further charges. She said she thinks she would have been immediately subject to 15 days of detention if she did not have children – a son of 17 and a daughter of 11 – but she is still “very worried” about their future.

Ovsyannikova said her son, himself a patriot, has taken her actions particularly harshly, accusing her of “ruining our entire lives.” She said she hopes he will eventually understand her gesture.

“I explained to him that in life you have to react and make decisions that are often complicated,” she told France 24.

For the past 13 years, Ovsyannikova has been working on the foreign news desk on Channel One, a state-owned television station consumed by millions that closely follows the Kremlin line.

She told CNN that it had become increasingly difficult to follow the party line in her work as she observed Russia’s growing aggression over the years, including its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its poisoning by opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“I have felt a cognitive dissonance, more and more, between my beliefs and what we say in the air,” Ovsyannikova said. “The war was the point of no return, as it was simply impossible to remain silent.”

While acknowledging that she could have participated in a public protest, Ovsyannikova told ABC that she believed she could do something “more meaningful, with more effect.” So far, more than 15,000 people in Russia have been detained to protest the war.

Only now, she said, was she becoming aware of the “far-reaching consequences” of her actions.

I am ashamed that I allowed myself to tell lies from the television screen.

In the video recorded before her broadcast, Ovsyannikova directly accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of the war. She also highlighted her shame over her own role in the broadcast of “Kremlin propaganda”.

“The responsibility for this aggression lies only in the conscience of one person. This man is Vladimir Putin,” she said.

“I am ashamed that I allowed myself to tell lies from the TV screen, ashamed that I allowed Russians to be turned into zombies,” she added.

Ovsyannikova told Der Spiegel that she was “happy” to read that her protest has been followed by a string of dismissals from Russian journalists, including top TV anchors: Channel One’s Zhanna Agalakova and NTV’s Lilia Gildeeva and Vadim Glusker.

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