Fears are rising for a Russian journalist, who is believed to be missing after disrupting the main news program on Russia’s most popular TV station. He was holding a sign that said: “They lie to you.”
On Monday evening, Marina Ovsyannikova, thought to have been a long-time employee of the company, marched to the set behind the presenter carrying a placard decrying the invasion of Ukraine – a move that the Kremlin called “hooliganism”.
This was a risky protest in a country that has had independent media shut down or blocked. It is now illegal to challenge the government’s war narrative.
The UN’s Human Rights Office has urged Russian authorities to ensure she does not face reprisals for exercising her freedom of expression.
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Pavel Chikov, a human rights lawyer, posted on Twitter that Ms Ovsyannikova was in prison. He referenced the Russian news agency TASS.
He wrote, “Marina Ovsyannikova is not yet found.” She has been held for 12 hours.
“The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation conducts a pre-investigation checking against Ovsyannikova.
“The pre-investigation checks do not give grounds for detention or imprisonment.”
According to Mr Chikov, head of the Russian human right group Agora (human rights group in Russia), Ms Ovsyannikova was taken into custody and taken to a Moscow police station.
According to TASS, she could face charges under a law against discrediting armed forces.
The law was passed on March 4th and makes it illegal to discredit Russia’s army. It also bans fake news and the “public dissemination of deliberately false information regarding the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”. This offense can land you in prison for up to 15 years.
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In a video address, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zeleskyy praised Ms Ovsyannikova.
What did Ms Ovsyannikova watch on TV?
During the protest on-air, the placard in English said: “No war.” Russians oppose war. It said in Russian: “NO WAR. Stop fighting. Don’t believe propaganda. They will lie to you.”
Ms Ovsyannikova was heard shouting “Stop the War!” while she stood beside the host as she continued to read from her autocue. There is no war! Stop fighting! There is no war!
After the broadcast switched to an alternative output, she could still be heard.
Ms Ovsyannikova claimed her father was Ukrainian and her mother Russian. She also released a video of her before the demonstration in which she blamed President Vladimir Putin.
She stated that she was “unfortunately” a Channel One employee in recent years. She worked for the Kremlin’s propaganda, and that it made her very ashamed.
She said, “We kept silent during 2014, when all of that was just at the beginning (annexation Crimea). When the Kremlin poisoned Navalny, we didn’t attend rallies. We watched in silence as this cruel regime was implemented. The world has abandoned us now, and even 10 generations will not be enough for this shameful fratricidal war to end.
“We, the Russian people are smart and thoughtful. This madness must be stopped. Don’t be afraid to attend rallies. They can’t lock us all up.
TASS reported that Channel One, which broadcasts throughout Russia, has been conducting an internal investigation into the incident.
The Kremlin line is closely followed by the channel. Moscow was forced to intervene in Ukraine to demilitarize and “de-Nazify”, the country in “special military operations”.
In other developments
* Kyiv mayor declares 35-hour curfew, as UK warns about’subversion to democracy’
* UK bans exports of luxury goods to Russia and increases import tariffs for products
* Briton, who went to warzone to fight against Russia, fears that he will be killed
* Roman Abramovich is ‘back in Moscow’ following being’spotted at Israeli Airport’ by the EU.
* Foreign Office minister warns that Vladimir Putin is trying to justify invading by holding fake elections