How Marina Ovsyannikova Became Russia’s Most Visible Antiwar Protester


It wasn’t lengthy after Russian troops pushed into Ukraine three weeks in the past,

Marina Ovsyannikova

says, that she determined she needed to make her voice heard.

A tv producer on the Kremlin’s flagship community Channel One, Ms. Ovsyannikova at first thought she would be a part of antiwar demonstrations on the streets of Moscow. Her son, fearing she can be arrested, hid her automotive keys.

Then she settled on a extra audacious plan. As the night information broadcast was beginning on Monday, Ms. Ovsyannikova received up from her desk. Flashing her ID badge she handed via two safety checkpoints and breezed previous a remaining guard on the studio door.

Bursting into view behind the present’s anchor, she shouted, “Stop the war, no to war.” Before the digital camera minimize away, she flashed a poster earlier than hundreds of thousands of viewers. It learn: “No war. Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They lie to you here. Russians against war.”

Then she walked out of the studio previous the shocked guard and into the hallway, the place she dropped the poster on the ground and was met by executives dashing towards her. They promptly turned her over to the police.

In the house of about 10 seconds, Ms. Ovsyannikova had reworked herself from a self-described cog in Russian President

Vladimir Putin’s

messaging machine into some of the seen and daring dissidents against his struggle.

A lady recognized as a Russian state TV worker interrupted a reside broadcast brandishing a poster in opposition to the struggle in Ukraine; assaults on Kyiv intensified, hitting a tram and residential areas; some EU leaders arrive in Kyiv as diplomatic efforts proceed. Photo: Ukrainian Presidential Office

“The future of my country is being decided right now,” she stated in an interview. And she says she needed to face up and be counted.

Ms. Ovsyannikova was launched from detention on Tuesday and fined approximately $280 by a Moscow courtroom for a video she launched explaining her actions. Her legal professionals warn she may nonetheless face costs below a brand new Russian legislation that prohibits criticism of the military and makes it unlawful to explain the Russian offensive in Ukraine as a struggle or an invasion. The penalty: Up to fifteen years in jail.

Ms. Ovsyannikova stated she has no plans to go away the nation and is presently staying at a safe location offered by her attorneys. Invoking a phrase popularized by jailed opposition chief

Alexei Navalny,

she added: “Anyone interested in the bright future of this country needs to be here—even if for 15 years behind bars.”

Since Ms. Ovsyannikova’s on-air protest on Monday, no less than 4 high journalists of state-run tv channels have resigned.

The speaker of Russia’s decrease home of Parliament this week known as on the Channel One producer to be handled “with all severity.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Putin issued a broad warning in opposition to dissent. “Any people, and especially the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish the true patriots from the scum and the traitors, and just to spit them out like a gnat that accidentally flew into their mouths,” Mr. Putin stated in remarks proven on state tv. “I am convinced that this natural and necessary self-cleansing of society will only strengthen our country.”

The Kremlin’s flagship community Channel One broadcasts from the Ostankino TV heart in Moscow.


-/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Born within the Soviet Union within the now-Ukrainian metropolis of Odessa to a Ukrainian father and a Russian mom, Ms. Ovsyannikova stated she views herself as Russian, not Ukrainian. Her father, who served within the Soviet navy, was a Russian speaker who died a few 12 months after her delivery. Her mom quickly moved her to Russia, the place she has lived ever since.

Ms. Ovsyannikova’s curiosity in journalism blossomed when she was a high-school scholar within the mid-90s and her mom was working for a neighborhood radio station. In these days, she stated, the Russian press was comparatively free.

“Journalism wasn’t constant government propaganda,” Ms. Ovsyannikova recalled. “Everyone strived for intelligent and good work.”

Ms. Ovsyannikova labored for state tv in her hometown after commencement earlier than transferring to the capital, Moscow, in 2002, searching for loftier alternatives. After incomes a grasp’s diploma she began writing information stories for well-known anchor Zhanna Agalakova. Ms. Agalakova is without doubt one of the anchors who give up this week.

Marina Ovsyannikova stated she has no plans to go away Russia.


The Wall Street Journal

It was in 2008, when Russia launched a navy marketing campaign in opposition to the neighboring nation of Georgia, that Ms. Ovsyannikova says she first began feeling “cognitive dissonance”—loving her nation however disagreeing with its route.

Still, she saved up her work on the state broadcaster. Her profession had taken a again seat to her private life and youngsters, who are actually 11 and 17, and he or she wanted to offer for them.

Then, in August 2020, when Mr. Navalny was poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent, she thought of protesting. Mr. Navalny has blamed authorities brokers. The Kremlin has denied any involvement.

“But I understood that I work for a government channel and I can’t allow myself this,” stated Ms. Ovsyannikova. “With all these turbulent financial crises, some constant source of income is necessary. You have to feed your family.”

Less than two years later got here the war in Ukraine. “We arrived at this point of evil and we can no longer tolerate it,” she stated. “It’s a fratricidal war. Ukrainians are the same Slavs and every second Russian has relatives in Ukraine,” she stated. “They chose their path, their direction toward Europe, to European values. That’s their choice. They are free people.”

Marina Ovsyannikova stated she thought of protesting after the poisoning of opposition chief Alexei Navalny, right here being escorted out of a police station outdoors Moscow in 2021.


alexander nemenov/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A pal of Ms. Ovsyannikova, Nina Aleksa, give up working for a state tv channel in 2016 and started working for a since-banned opposition group. The two would focus on politics whereas watching their youngsters on the playground.

“She always had thoughts like this,” Ms. Aleksa stated. “But I never pushed her or criticized her.”

Ms. Aleksa, 37, moved to Tbilisi, Georgia, a rising heart of Russian émigrés, in June final 12 months, and hadn’t heard from her since she had left.

Last Saturday, she stated, she obtained a textual content from Ms. Ovsyannikova.

“She asked me about emigration, how is it there, how is Tbilisi,” Ms. Aleksa recalled. “She said, ‘It seems this is my future.’ ”

Then, on Monday at 6 p.m., Ms. Aleksa obtained one other textual content from her pal: Please file the 9 p.m. information. “Suffer a bit,” Ms. Ovsyannikova joked to her pal. “You’ll like it.”

“I thought she was warning me to watch for a drop of insider information, like Putin would announce his resignation or something,” Ms. Aleksa stated.

When she noticed Ms. Ovsyannikova on her display, she didn’t imagine it. She reached her about an hour later, however Ms. Ovsyannikova stated she was at a police station and would textual content her. She despatched Ms. Aleksa a prerecorded video and requested her to share it with overseas media.

Ms. Aleksa, who now works for the Washington-based Free Russia Foundation, says donors have pooled sufficient funds to get Ms. Ovsyannikova and her complete household overseas. She strongly disagrees along with her pal’s resolution to remain.

Marina Ovsyannikova leaving a courtroom constructing in Moscow on Tuesday.



On Tuesday, French President

Emmanuel Macron

stated that France would grant asylum to Ms. Ovsyannikova and that he would increase the problem with Mr. Putin.

Ms. Ovsyannikova stated she believes most Russians are in opposition to the struggle. The day Russia launched its invasion, everybody she knew—together with her colleagues—have been horrified and “fell into a stupor,” she stated.

“The life of Russians is coming apart like a house of cards,” she stated, pointing to the exit of foreign companies and the effects of sanctions on the Russian economy. “People just haven’t fully realized it yet.”

Ms. Ovsyannikova defined why she made her placard bilingual. “What was written in English was meant for the Western public, so people abroad understand that the majority of Russians are against this pointless war,” she stated. “The Russian was for our zombified people that believe this propaganda machine.”

The protest has been welcomed by a swath of opposition activists and unbiased journalists, however some have been additionally crucial of Ms. Ovsyannikova for serving to push the federal government line for years at Channel One.

Ms. Ovsyannikova says she has determined she will be able to now not be a part of that machine, however she brushed apart the suggestion that she had actually accomplished a lot to additional it.

“I was a cog,” she stated. “Don’t make me out to be a super champion of injustice and super responsible over what was happening with their propaganda.”

Write to Evan Gershkovich at [email protected]

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