“Do Not Be Afraid!”
“Do not be afraid. They cannot put all of us in jail.”
Marina Ovsyannikova privately wrestled with a fateful question. As an editor at Channel One, the Russian state-run television station, she knew the truth about Putin’s war in Ukraine. What would Ovsyannikova do? Would she value her safety and remain silent? Would she quietly join thousands of professional Russians fleeing to Finland and Turkey? Or would she find a way to publicly protest the war in Ukraine? Outraged by the relentless death and destruction in Ukraine, Ovsyannikova chose to stage a bold public protest.
During a live Monday evening news broadcast, Ovsyannikova suddenly appeared behind a female anchor and shouted: “Stop the war. No to war!” She also held up a handwritten sign in Russian, which translated into English to read: “Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here.” The bottom of the sign read in English: “Russians against the war.”
Prior to her dramatic protest, Ovsyannikova recorded a video message explaining the reasons for her opposition to the war in Ukraine: “I have been working at Channel One during recent years, working on propaganda. And now I am very ashamed. I am ashamed that I’ve allowed the lies to be said on TV screens. I am ashamed that I let the Russian people be zombified.”
Ovsyannikova’s bold on-air demonstration sent shock waves that reverberated across Russia and throughout the world. Her protest marked the first time viewers of Russia’s tightly controlled news broadcast had been exposed to a dissenting view. Dissidents inside Russia praised her courage and conviction and hoped it would spark a wave of protests. Ovsyannikova’s courageous act of defiance captured the attention of world leaders. President Zelensky praised her as a person “unafraid to tell the truth.”
Russian officials did not praise Ovsyannikova. A Kremlin spokesman dismissed her protest as “an act of hooliganism.” Denied legal assistance, Ovsyannikova disappeared from public view as authorities interrogated her for 14 hours.
The long interrogation and fine did not intimidate Ovsyannikova. Undaunted by the possibility of a long prison sentence, she remained defiant. Ovsyannikova resolutely urged her supporters to remain steadfast: “Do not be afraid. They cannot put all of us in jail.”
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