Mar 17, 2022 - World

Russian state TV sees wave of resignations following Ukraine invasion

Russian state TV journalist Ovsyannikova's protest on Channel One March 14 during Russia's most-watched evening news broadcast.
Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova's protest against war with Ukraine on Channel One on March 14 during Russia's most-watched evening news broadcast. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova told Reuters Wednesday she's "extremely concerned" for her safety but hopes her anti-war protest live on state TV this week will help people "open their eyes" to the invasion of Ukraine.

Why it matters: The Channel One editor's on-air demonstration to "millions of viewers" that the Kremlin isn't telling the truth about the invasion "broke the state propaganda machine" and along with it a "long silence" among Russia's journalists — several of whom have since resigned or plan to, writes Russian journalist Denis Kataev in the Guardian.

  • Ovsyannikova's actions on Monday have also brought into focus the resignations of foreign reporters for state-run Russian outlets around the world, after the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

The big picture: Maria Baronova, who quit as chief editor of RT, formerly known as Russia Today, told the BBC after resigning earlier this month that Russian President Vladimir Putin had "destroyed Russia's reputation" and killed the country's economy.

  • Other journalists to recently resign from RT include former London correspondent Shadia Edwards-Dashti; Jonny Tickle, who was based in Moscow; and Frédéric Taddeï, a TV host in France, the BBC notes.
  • In Russia, Ovsyannikova's Channel One colleague Zhanna Agalakova resigned as Europe correspondent and veteran NTV hosts Lilia Gildeyeva and Vadim Glusker also quit, it emerged on Tuesday, per the BBC.

Meanwhile, Ovsyannikova was hit with an administrative fine of 30,000 rubles (about $280) on Tuesday for breaching protest laws and could still be prosecuted under Russia's new "fake news" law, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

  • But the 43-year-old mother of two whose father is Ukrainian told Reuters she has no plans to leave Russia.
  • "If I end up having to serve time in jail for what I believe in, then I hope it's a minimal sentence," Ovsyannikova said.

What she's saying: Ovsyannikova told CNN in an interview on Wednesday evening that her decision to protest on-air had been a spontaneous one, though the idea had been "brewing for quite a long time."

  • "It was a growing sense of dissatisfaction that kept increasing every year, and the war was the point of no return," she told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
  • "When it was simply impossible to stay silent and I realized that I would either need to do something or we will reach a point of no return."
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