Marina Ovsyannikova: Russia TV protester quits channel but declines asylum offer

Journalist could face prison but says she is a patriot and will stay in Russia

Marina Ovsyannikova after being fined by the Ostankinsky District Court on March 15 for breaching protest laws in Moscow. AFP

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A Russian editor who protested against Moscow's military action in Ukraine during a state TV news broadcast said on Thursday that she was quitting her job but not accepting an asylum offer from France, calling herself "a patriot".

Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor at Channel One television, barged on to the set of its flagship Vremya (Time) evening news on Monday, holding a poster reading "No War."

She was detained and a Moscow court fined her 30,000 rubles ($290). But despite being freed, she could face further prosecution and up to 15 years in prison under new laws.

She told France 24 television from Moscow on Thursday that she had "handed in all the documents" for her resignation from Channel One. "It's a legal procedure," she said.

Ms Ovsyannikova, who has two young children, said she had "broken the life of our family with this gesture", with her son in particular showing anxiety.

"But we need to put an end to this fratricidal war so this madness does not turn into nuclear war. I hope when my son is older he will understand why I did this," she said.

French President Emmanuel Macron this week offered asylum or other forms of consular protection to Ms Ovsyannikova, saying he would bring up her case with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

But she told Germany's Der Spiegel that she would not take up Mr Macron's offer and would stay in Russia.

"I don't want to leave our country," Ms Ovsyannikova said. "I am a patriot, my son is even more so. We don't want to leave in any way, we don't want to go anywhere."

She told Der Spiegel that she had prepared her protest alone but indicated she believed many colleagues privately sympathised with her.

"Most people who work for state television understand very well what is going on. They know only too well that they are doing something wrong," Ms Ovsyannikova said.

She told France 24 that some of her colleagues had resigned but that many were unable to even if they wanted.

"I am happy that people handed in their notice but the economic situation is very hard and people find it very hard to stop their work," Ms Ovsyannikova said.

Press freedom activists outside Russia accuse its state television of painting a severely distorted picture of the war to maintain support for what the Kremlin calls a "special military operation."

Ms Ovsyannikova's prime-time, on-air message in Russian read: "Stop the war. Don't believe propaganda. They are lying to you here."

Updated: March 18, 2022, 10:13 AM