A Russian woman who denounced the Russian offensive in Ukraine during a live news bulletin on state television was fined 30,000 roubles ($280) on Tuesday (March 15), a court said, after the Kremlin denounced her act of protest as “hooliganism.”
Marina Ovsyannikova, a Channel One employee, was found guilty of flouting protest laws, the court said. It was not immediately clear if she could also face other, more serious charges. Her lawyer was not immediately reachable for comment.
Ovsyannikova staged an extraordinary show of dissent on Monday night when she held up a sign behind a studio presenter reading the news on Channel One and shouted slogans condemning Russia’s Feb. 24 offensive in Ukraine.
State TV, which beams the Kremlin’s narrative into homes across Russia’s 11 time zones, portrays the invasion as a “special military operation,” brushing over the humanitarian crisis, damage to cities and the mounting death toll.
Ovsyannikova exhorted Russians not to be taken in by state propaganda, a message that drew praise from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy but was swiftly rebuffed in Moscow.
“As far as this woman is concerned, this is hooliganism,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. “The channel and those who are supposed to will get to the bottom of this,” he told reporters, describing Channel One as a pillar of objective and timely news.
After the hearing, Ovsyannikova told reporters she was exhausted, had been questioned for more than 14 hours, had not been allowed to speak to her relatives and was not provided with legal assistance. She said she needed to rest before commenting further.
Her protest had stirred fears among her sympathisers that she could be prosecuted under new legislation that carries a jail term of up to 15 years.
The law adopted eight days after the invasion of Ukraine makes public actions aimed at discrediting Russia’s army illegal and bans the spread of fake news or the “public dissemination of deliberately false information” about the use of Russia’s armed forces.
Officials in Moscow describe Russia’s offensive in Ukraine as a special military operation to disarm the country and prevent “genocide” against Russian-speakers, a justification dismissed by Ukraine and the West as a false pretext for an invasion of a democratic country.