'Wow, That Girl Is Cool'

All eyes are on Russia's Marina Ovsyannikova after bold live-TV protest against the war
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2022 1:17 PM CDT
'Wow, That Girl Is Cool'
A screen shot of the protest.   (YouTube/Reuters)

(Newser) – The Russian journalist who staged a remarkable protest against her own government on live TV is not facing harsh punishment for the time being. The BBC reports that Marina Ovsyannikova appeared in a Moscow court Tuesday, pleaded guilty to organizing an unauthorized public event, and was fined about $280 before being released. A big caveat: That charge pertains to a video Ovsyannikova made before her on-air protest. She could yet face charges for the protest itself, and Russia's Investigative Council has opened an investigation. The Kremlin recently put into place penalties of up to 15 years in prison for those who spread what Russian authorities deem to be "fake news" about its invasion of Ukraine. (Even saying the word "invasion" would qualify.)

  • Watch it: See video of the protest via Reuters. Ovsyannikova, a now-former editor at the state-controlled Channel One, walked behind an anchor delivering the news, held up an anti-war sign, and labeled the Russian government's statements about the war "propaganda."
  • Meaningful necklace: Ovsyannikova was detained immediately after the protest, and her lawyers initially could not reach her. However, she was later pictured in a Moscow court with attorney Anton Gashishky. NPR, citing a Russian outlet, reports that Ovsyannikova refused to retract her statements condemning the invasion. It also notes she's been wearing a blue, yellow, red, and white necklace, symbolizing Ukrainian-Russian unity.

  • Rationale: "The anger has been building up with her ever since the war started," an unidentified friend of Ovsyannikova's tells the Guardian. "Two days ago, she told me how she was going to do it." In the video she made before the protest, Ovsyannikova said that her father was Ukrainian and that she was ashamed to have worked at Channel One.
  • Support: French President Emmanuel Macron offered Ovsyannikova diplomatic protection and promised to raise the issue directly with Vladimir Putin, per CNN. "France strongly condemns any imprisonment of a journalist," he said. Ukraine President Zelensky also praised her, as did a spokesperson for jailed Russian dissident Alexei Navalny: "Wow, that girl is cool," wrote Kira Yarmysh, per the South China Morning Post.
  • Unprecedented: An analysis by Vitaliy Shevchenko at the BBC notes that Channel One is a primary voice of the Kremlin. He called Ovsyannikova's protest an "unprecedented moment of dissent," one that required "extraordinary courage."
(Read more Russia stories.)

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