A Russian state television journalist who staged an unprecedented protest against Russia's war on Ukraine live on air on Monday evening was fined just 30,000 roubles (around 250 euros or 280 US dollars) by a court in Moscow on Tuesday.
An editor at Russia's Channel One, Marina Ovsyannikova walked onto set during the country's main news programme "Vremya" (Time) and held up a sign to the camera protesting President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine, warning that viewers were being "lied to."
Many supporters feared that Ovsyannikova would face the full force of a harsh new law that punishes defamation of the Russian army or the spreading of "fake news" with up to 15 years in prison.
Media outlets in Russia are also explicitly banned from referring to the Russian invasion of its neighbour as a war, instead using the official terminology describing the conflict as a "special military operation" to "demilitarize" and "denazify" Ukraine.
The European Commission had earlier praised Ovsyannikova for taking "a brave moral stance ... to object to the Kremlin's lies and propaganda live on air on a state-controlled TV channel."
Commission spokesperson Peter Stano said on Tuesday that the channel's chief executive was one of the regime's "chief propagandists."
"The state apparatus continues its oppression against the domestic opposition, against the domestic peace-loving population, denying them their basic rights and freedoms such as freedom of opinion and freedom of expression," Stano said.
Zelensky thanked Ovsyannikova
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Ovsyannikova for her protest, extending this gratitude to all Russians "who try to tell the truth."
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov meanwhile condemned Ovsyannikova's actions as "hooliganism," but said that the matter was for the broadcaster itself to settle.
❗️Девушка, которая вышла в кадр во время прямого эфира программы «Время» на Первом канале с антивоенным плакатом — сотрудница канала Марина Овсянникова.— ОВД-Инфо (@OvdInfo) March 14, 2022
После появления в эфире ее задержали. Сейчас она, предположительно, находится в ОВД «Останкино» pic.twitter.com/Z4AesCs80j
A pre-recorded video message from Ovsyannikova subsequently went viral. In it she says she felt ashamed of having spread Kremlin propaganda for years.
"What is happening in Ukraine is a crime."
Putin alone was responsible for the aggression, she said, calling on her compatriots to come out in protest against the war.
"It is down to us to stop all this madness," she said, adding that the authorities could not imprison everyone.