Marina Ovsyannikova, a former employee of the state-run Channel One television station in Russia who protested the invasion of Ukraine by holding up a “No War” sign on the air, was offered the chance to retract her antiwar statements in a Moscow court on Tuesday.
She refused to do so, and pleaded not guilty to administrative law charges that were filed against her.
Those charges did not stem from her protest, but from the content of a pre-recorded video she made ahead of her action, in which she explained her antiwar views and how she was “embarrassed” for being part of the propaganda machine on Channel One.
“What’s happening in Ukraine right now is a true crime. And Russia is the aggressor,” she said in that video. “And the responsibility for this crime lies only on the conscience of one person, and that person is [Russia President] Vladimir Putin.”
— Expat in Kyiv (@expatua) March 14, 2022
Ovsyannikova was found guilty of violating the administrative law and fined 30,000 rubles (the equivalent of $280 USD). She could face future criminal charges for her on-air protest.
Ovsyannikova’s lawyers pointed out that her rights were being denied to her during her detainment — under Russian law, women who have children under the age of 14 cannot be detained for violating administrative laws (Ovsyannikova has two children under that age limit).
In addition to refusing to retract her statements and pleading not guilty, Ovsyannikova reiterated her viewpoints on the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine to the judge overseeing her case.
“I still believe that Russia committed a crime by attacking Ukraine,” she said. “I do not retract any of my words, it was indeed an antiwar statement.”
Speaking outside of the courthouse after being fined, Ovsyannikova shared her experience in detention, during which her lawyers presumed she was missing due to the fact that she wasn’t allowed to contact them. The dissident, whose father is Ukrainian and mother is Russian, explained that she was interrogated for more than 14 hours while under arrest, and wasn’t allowed to call any of her family to tell them what was going on.
“I spent two days without sleep,” she added.
Ovsyannikova’s protest is but one example out of thousands of Russians in the country speaking out against the Putin-ordered invasion of Ukraine. Protests have sprung up in dozens of cities across the nation, with dissidents risking their livelihoods to showcase their opposition to the war.
Earlier this month, the Kremlin made it illegal to independently report on the war or for citizens to protest against it, threatening those who violated the law with up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
As of last week, more than 13,000 Russians have been arrested for protesting the invasion of Ukraine, according to a protest monitoring group called OVD-Info.