A live evening news program on Russia’s state television channel was interrupted Monday by a person who walked into the studio holding a poster protesting the war in Ukraine.
The moment was a risky protest in a country where independent media has been blocked or shuttered and it has become illegal to contradict the government’s narrative of the war.
An anchor was speaking during the 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 calling on people not to believe Russian propaganda.
Within seconds, the news program cut away to another scene.
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 invasion of Ukraine is being characterized in Russia as a special military operation.
An independent human rights group that monitors political arrests identified the woman as Marina Ovsyannikova. The group, OVD-Info, posted on its website that Ovsyannikova, who identified herself as an employee of the station, was taken into police custody.
Ovsyannikova spoke out against the war in a video on OVD-Info’s website.
“What is going on now is a crime,” she said. “Russia is an aggressor country and Vladimir Putin is solely responsible for that aggression.”
Speaking in a video address early Tuesday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Ovsyannikova.
People in Russia have limited access to information from outside their country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed into law a measure that criminalizes the spread of information that is considered by the Kremlin to be fake news.
Media outlets and individuals who publish information that deviates from Putin’s narrative are being targeted.
There have been blocks imposed on the BBC, the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza.
Russia has also blocked social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.