Russian journalist and former high-level swimmer was fined 30,000 roubles (about $280) for her actions on Russian television protesting the war in Ukraine. This fine is similar to those that have been levied against other protesters, even those with lower profiles, after Russia’s crackdown on anti-war protesting, which it has deemed spreading false information.
Ovsyannikova was arrested after holding a sign behind a live television broadcast that read:
NO WAR. [in English]
Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They are lying to you here. [in Russian]
Russians against War [in English]
She also shouted “Stop the war. No to war,” in the background as newscaster Ekaterina Andreeva continued to read the news from a teleprompter. The message was aired for a few seconds before the station cut away to a different report.
Even after the fine, Ovsyannikova continued to post anti-war messages on her personal social media, including adding a “STOP WAR” stamp to her Instagram profile picture.
Over the past week, she has shared stories of Ukrainians who have been injured in the war, especially children, with her 12,500 followers on Instagram.
Channel One responded to her protest by airing a statement by Kirill Kleimyonov, head of the news division, who claimed that she is a British spy. Kleimyonov said that she has “betrayed [her] country and all of us…coldly, duplicitously, for a bonus.”
In an interview with American journalist George Stefanopolous on ABC, Ovsyannikova says that she wanted to show the Russian people that it wasn’t so black and white and to demonstrate to the world that not all Russian support the war – though she said that she still believes that western sanctions on her country are appropriate.
Ovsyannikova has reportedly rejected offers of asylum by other countries.
Ovsyannikova began swimming at the age of 6, she said in a 2002 interview, and was good enough to compete at the top level of Russian youth swimming, as well as for her university team. There, she was a university champion of the Krasnodar territory.
In the interview, she said she continues to swim occasionally in the pool. Her Instagram bio still mentions swimming, and she claims to have swum across the Volga River in Russia and the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey.
Before her arrest, Ovsyannikova released a statement saying that the war in Russia is a crime, and that the blame falls fully on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The 44-year old currently lives in Moscow and has two children.
Her statement on one of Russia’s most-watched television channels has earned her global attention – but also puts her in danger at home. A Russian crackdown on anti-war protesters has led to “tens of thousands” of arrests, including celebrities, with some facing charges as serious as treason.