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No 10 praises ‘incredibly brave’ woman behind Russian state TV protest

Boris Johnson’s spokesman said it showed a ‘significant proportion of the people of Russia do not believe this war is in their name’.

15 March 2022

A woman who interrupted a live news bulletin on Russian state TV to protest against the invasion of Ukraine has been praised by Downing Street for her “incredibly brave act”.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly earlier said the stunt, along with other demonstrations in Russia, was “really important” in telling the truth about the conflict in a country where it is now illegal to contradict President Vladimir Putin’s narrative of the war.

On Monday evening, an anchor on state-controlled Channel One was speaking during a newscast when a woman appeared on camera behind her holding a sign with “No war” scrawled in English across the top and a message in Russian below it, calling on people not to believe Moscow propaganda.

An independent human rights group that monitors political arrests identified the woman as Marina Ovsyannikova.

The group, OVD-Info, posted on its website that Ms Ovsyannikova, who identified herself as an employee of the TV station, was taken into police custody.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “I think this was an incredibly brave act by this producer.

“The Prime Minister wants to pay tribute to all of those in Russia standing up to Putin’s campaign of violence.

“It is an illustration that there is a significant proportion of the people of Russia who do not believe this war is in their name and are incredibly bravely standing up to make that clear.”

Russia Ukraine War
Police detain a demonstrator during a protest in St Petersburg against Russia’s attack on Ukraine (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP)

There have been reports that Ms Ovsyannikova, who is said to be a producer on the station she interrupted, has appeared at a Moscow court on Tuesday charged with “organising an unauthorised public event”.

That would amount to a less serious offence than the new censorship law passed earlier this month by Mr Putin, which criminalises the spread of information that is considered by the Kremlin to be “fake” news, controlling what can be reported about the conflict with Ukraine.

Mr Cleverley said that protests in Russia, including the one seen “on the Russian news programme”, were “incredibly important” in terms of providing the Russian population with information.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It shows a huge degree of bravery for those individuals to protest against what we know is an oppressive, authoritarian state, but it’s really important that the Russian people understand what is being done in their name.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“They have been systematically lied to by Vladimir Putin and it’s really important they understand the truth of what’s going on.”

Speaking in a video address early on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised Ms Ovsyannikova’s actions.

People in Russia have limited access to information from outside their country.

Internally, Russia’s state TV regularly amplifies the government line that says troops entered Ukraine to save people from “neo-Nazis” and to defend Russians from a country that was preparing to attack.

The assault on Ukraine is being characterised in Russia as a “special military operation”, with any suggestion of a war being waged against Kyiv branded as disinformation by the Kremlin.

Moscow has also blocked social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

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