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Russian state TV employee fined for ‘they’re lying to you’ sign protest

A Russian state television employee who protested against the war in Ukraine on primetime TV was fined 30,000 rubles (around €250) on Tuesday — and may still face jail.

Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor at the Kremlin-backed Channel One, briefly jumped behind a newsreader on Monday brandishing a sign that read: “No war. Stop war, don’t believe in propaganda, they’re lying to you here. Russians against war.”

“I thank everyone for their support,” Ovsyannikova said after being released, and told reporters she was questioned by police for more than 14 hours, was barred from speaking to relatives and was not allowed to consult a lawyer. “These were really very difficult days in my life because I spent literally two days without sleep,” she added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier Tuesday condemned Ovsyannikova’s actions and called her protest “hooliganism,” which in Russia is a crime.

But her protest may still be the subject of another criminal probe under new censorship laws. Russian lawmakers rushed new free-speech laws through parliament on March 4 which threaten those spreading “fake news” about the Russian army with up to 15 years in prison — a move that forced foreign outlets including Bloomberg and the BBC to suspend their operations amid concerns for journalists’ safety.

In a video posted to Telegram before the protest, Ovsyannikova — who is half-Russian, half-Ukrainian — confessed she was “very ashamed” for contributing to “Kremlin propaganda” during her time at Channel One while slamming Russia’s role in the war. “What’s happening in Ukraine is a crime, and Russia is the aggressor,” she said.

French President Emmanuel Macron also said Tuesday he would raise the TV editor’s case with Russian President Vladimir Putin and offered diplomatic protection to Ovsyannikova.

More than 14,000 Russians were detained for protests in the first 17 days of the war, according to monitoring group OVD-Info, while police are resorting to increasingly heavy-handed tactics for minor acts of public condemnation — with videos surfacing on social media showing protesters being led away for holding up blank signs.

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