Who is Marina Ovsyannikova and is her protest real

15 March, 07:55 PM
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A moment Marina Ovsyannikova carrying an anti-war poster, appeared behind the news anchor, Ekaterina Andreeva. (Photo:скріншот відео/Первый канал)

A moment Marina Ovsyannikova carrying an anti-war poster, appeared behind the news anchor, Ekaterina Andreeva. (Photo:скріншот відео/Первый канал)

On March 14, an incident occurred during a live broadcast on the Channel One Russia television channel. A woman carrying an anti-war poster appeared behind the news anchor, Ekaterina Andreeva. Many considered her a heroine, but there is reason to believe this is a staging.

The activist was quickly identified. She turned out to be Marina Ovsyannikova, the editor of the Channel One Russia TV channel. This became known thanks to the Telegram messenger channel of Putin critic and journalist Ksenia Sobchak, who posted Ovsyannikova's video address made before the evening news program.

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In the address, the Odesa native says that she regrets her many years of work at a propaganda resource, openly accuses (Russian dictator Vladimir) Putin of aggression toward Ukraine and calls on Russians to go to rallies. On March 15 she was ordered to pay 30,000 rubles fine for her video address

All this sounds like a real challenge to Putin's regime. The protest against the bloody dictatorship from a half-Ukrainian woman sounds bold, impudent, but at the same time it is quite logical.

But there are still some concerns

A video shows a moment Ovsyannikova protests live on Russia's main propaganda news channel Pervyi Kanal

Why may Ovsyannikova’s protest be fake?

Firstly, rumors that live broadcasts on Channel One are actually pre-recorded have often been spread by social media users. Russia is a state with near-total censorship, so this is a plausible claim.

Ovsyannikova’s protest may have been coordinated at the very least: several recordings of what was happening from different angles at once were posted in Sobchak's Telegram channel "Caution, the news," including behind the scenes, i.e. the moment when Ovsyannikova ran with a poster to the studio. This may suggest that Ovsyannikova was not acting alone, and had informed either confederates or at least collaborators to her stunt.

By the way, speaking about Sobchak

The daughter of Putin's closest ally and patron, Anatoly Sobchak, who periodically becomes an opposition politician, has been especially zealous in covering this story. She was the first one who posted Ovsyannikova's pre-recorded video address. It happened quite quickly after the incident on Channel One – 40 minutes later.

This likely indicates that Ovsyannikova was cooperating with Sobchak, at the very least.

What was in that video address?

Here is the text voiced by Ovsyannikova:

"What is happening in Ukraine is a crime. Russia is an aggressor country and the responsibility for this aggression rests on the conscience of only one person. That person is Vladimir Putin.”

"My father is Ukrainian, my mother is Russian, and they've never been enemies. This necklace I'm wearing (a decoration in blue-white-red and blue-yellow colors is on Ovsyannikova’s neck) is a symbol of the fact that Russia must immediately end this fratricidal war. And our fraternal peoples will still be able to make peace.”

"Unfortunately, I've spent the last few years working for Channel One, making Kremlin propaganda, and I'm very ashamed of this. Ashamed that I allowed lies to be broadcast from TV screens. Ashamed that I allowed others to zombify Russian people.”

"We were silent in 2014 when all this started. We didn't protest when the Kremlin poisoned (Russian opposition leader Alexei) Navalny. We just silently watched this inhuman regime at work. And now the whole world has turned its back on us. And the next 10 generations won't wash away the stain of this fratricidal war.”

"We, the Russians, are thinking and intelligent people. It's in our power alone to stop all this madness. Go protest. Don't be afraid of anything. They can't lock us all away," she urged.

Her statement has raised a few questions from Ukrainians, who have pointed out that talk of ‘fraternal people’ has been used by Kremlin propagandists to justify Russian imperialism of Ukraine for centuries. Another is the reference to Crimea - even Russian opposition leader, such as Alexey Navalny, have stated their belief that Crimea is and should be Russian.

The question remains, though one that is less relevant to the truth or falsity of the journalist’s protest, is what does Ovsyannikova regret about 2014, and what is her opinion regarding Crimea?

Who needs this incident on Channel One?

Paradoxical as it may sound, Channel One may benefit from this stunt - specifically Konstantin Ernst, its CEO. Channel One has often been accused of pre-recording live broadcasts, and the March 14 incident may be an attempt to refute these rumors.

It may also be an effort to curry favor with Western observers for Russian liberals, though this remains an incredibly vague goal.

Could it be real?

There’s no doubt that at least some Russians see the war against Ukraine as a crime being committed by their government and their dictator, Vladimir Putin. Thousands have been arrested at anti-war protests around the country and official repression has skyrocketed since the start of the war.

There’s also no denying that, if real, Ovsyannikova has taken on great personal risk - her career in Russian media is now over, and she may face years in prison for her act. No evidence that the Channel One segment was pre-recorded has been presented, and rumors spread by social media users remain just that. Live news broadcasts are quite common in other parts of the world, so it would not be especially surprising if the broadcast interruption was not a staged event.

Additionally, pictures of Ovsyannikova in court have already appeared, which would represent a very large investment into maintaining the illusion of a fake that ultimately results in little more than conversation on social networks and a day’s worth of headlines for Western press. While the Russia media often uses propaganda and fakes, they are rarely so elaborate, and typically quickly disproven.

What’s it all for then?

Regardless of whether or not Ovsyannikova’s protest was real or not, it nonetheless was yet another shred of evidence for the Russian populace that their dictator’s “special military operation” is nothing short of a full scale war against Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. The Russian people also carry responsibility for the crimes the Putin regime is committing in Ukraine, and their culpability, in large parts, rests on the Russian state’s ability to brainwash and spread propaganda.

In this regard, Ovsyannikova protest can be seen as another manifestation of Russian discontent with their government’s murder of Ukrainian citizens, and, if it spreads, may arm Russians with the tools they would need to end this war.

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