Russian Dissident Who Held “No War” Sign on TV Was Briefly Missing, Lawyers Say

An employee of a Russian television station who went missing after she protested the government’s war with Ukraine on the air has been found, her lawyers indicated on Tuesday.

On Monday, Marina Ovsyannikova, who worked as an editor for the state-run Channel 1 station in Russia, interrupted a live broadcast of the country’s most-watched news program by holding up a sign with anti-war language and yelling “Stop the War” over the words of the station’s anchor.

Her sign included the words “No War,” and “Don’t believe the propaganda, they’re lying to you here.”

The show quickly cut from filming the anchor to stock footage, and Ovsyannikova was immediately detained. Following her arrest, her lawyers released a video statement explaining why she felt compelled to take action; in it, Ovsyannikova explained that she is “deeply ashamed” to have worked for the station, as it produced “Kremlin propaganda” that she disagreed with.

A spokesperson for the Russian government later tried to downplay Ovsyannikova’s protest as “hooliganism.” But on Tuesday, it appeared that the Kremlin was taking her supposed offense seriously, as Ovsyannikova briefly went missing, according to her lawyers, who said they could not locate their client.

Later on Tuesday, Ovsyannikova and one of her lawyers, Anton Gashinsky, showed that she was no longer missing by sharing a photo of themselves in a Moscow court on social media.

Ovsyannikova’s arrest highlights the dangers that Russian residents face in standing up to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. There is currently a growing anti-war movement within the country, with protests springing up in dozens of Russian cities over the past three weeks.

Kremlin authorities have responded to these protests by arresting and detaining people. At the start of this month, the Russian government criminalized protests against its invasion of Ukraine; individuals who are found guilty of illegally protesting the war or independently reporting on it face up to 15 years in prison.

As of last week, around 13,000 Russians had been arrested by the country’s police for speaking out against the invasion.