Marina Ovsyannikova, the journalist who went viral after she interrupted a live Russian state-run news program to protest the invasion of Ukraine, spoke with the BBC after she was detained, saying that Russians are “zombified” by propaganda.
“I understand it’s very hard… to find alternative information, but you need to try to look for it,” Ovsyannikova, an editor at the state-run Channel 1, said.
“I was aware that if I went to protest in [Moscow’s] central square I would be arrested like everyone else and thrown into a police van and be put on trial,” Ovsyannikova said. “Half the poster was in Russian, half the poster was in English. I really wanted to show the Western audience that some Russians are against war.”
“I feel of course some responsibility lying on me. I was an ordinary cog in the propaganda machine. Until the very last moment I didn’t think about it too much,” she said.
“There are lots of conspiracy theories building up about me,” she said, on the subject of accusations made against her in Russian media. “That’s why I had to explain to the world what really happened, the fact that I am just a normal Russian woman, but I could not remain on the sidelines.”
Earlier this week, Ovsyannikova stormed the set of a Channel 1 evening live broadcast with a sign in English reading: “No War.”
The sign also included messages like, “Don’t believe the propaganda” and “you are being lied to,” written in Russian.
According to human rights group OVD-Info, she was subsequently detained and taken into custody by Russian authorities.
“Russia is the aggressor. The responsibility for this aggression lies on the conscience of only one person and this person is Vladimir Putin,” she said in a pre-recorded video. “My father is Ukrainian, my mother is Russian, and they were never enemies.”
“I am ashamed that I allowed [Channel 1] to tell lies from the TV screen. I am ashamed of letting Russian people get zombied,” Ovsyannikova said. “We just quietly watched this antihuman regime.”
After her protest, the Kremlin dismissed Ovsyannikova as participating in “hooliganism.”
“As far as this woman is concerned, this is hooliganism,” said Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson. “The channel and those who are supposed to will get to the bottom of this.”
Ovsyannikova says that she was detained and questioned by police for 14 hours, and was fined 30,000 roubles ($280), adding that authorities are convinced that she was acting on someone else’s behalf.
“Nobody believed it was my personal decision. They suggested it could be conflict at work, relatives who were angry about Ukraine or that I was doing it for Western special services,” she said. “They couldn’t believe that I had so many objections to the government that I could not stay silent.”