One Gutsy Lady: Standing for Principle

Although it is impossible to know what’s actually going on in Putin’s mind, it doesn’t appear that his war is going according to plan. The almost-universal condemnation of the attack, the fierce resistance by the Ukrainians, which has created a military quagmire leading to thousands of dead Russian soldiers, and the crippling economic sanctions—all point to the fact that the war in Ukraine is not turning out as Putin surely hoped it would.

And, perhaps most surprising, there has been the open opposition in Russia itself, the protests and anger expressed by millions of Russians. Either in the days of the Czars or in the long, cold despotism of the Soviet Union, Russia has never much tolerated political dissent. From the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky imprisoned by the Czar, to famed nuclear scientist Andre Sakharov sent to internal exile by the communists, people have risked jail and worse in speaking out against the policies of their leaders.

And now to the list of those daring to speak out can be added Russian TV editor Marina Ovsyannikova, whose stunning on-air protest against her nation’s war against Ukraine thrilled the world—and made her a media sensation overnight.

Who is Ovsyannikova, what did she do, and what can we learn from her actions?


The Protest

During the long buildup to the invasion, Putin had already been shutting down dissenting news sources, leaving mostly pro-government propaganda outlets, which included Channel One, the first television station to broadcast in the Russian Federation after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Early in March, during a Channel One broadcast, Ovsyannikova, one of the network’s editors, walked on to the live set. As another woman was reading the news, Ovsyannikova held up a sign that read in English “No War”—and below it in Russian, “Stop the War; Don’t believe the Propaganda; They’re lying to you.” She also chanted, “Stop the war! No to war!”

Millions across Russia saw the protest before the station cut away—yet the clip went viral worldwide, and Ovsyannikova became a sensation. 

Before her online protest, Ovsyannikova recorded a video that condemned the invasion. In it, she explained that her father is Ukrainian. She said, “Unfortunately, I’ve spent many of the last few years working for Channel One, doing Kremlin propaganda, and I’m deeply ashamed by this.” She then encouraged others to protest, proclaiming, “They can’t arrest us all.”


The Arrest

No, they couldn’t arrest them all, but they could arrest her—and they did. Police swooped in, and she was hurried off to a Moscow police station. For fourteen hours, she was held incommunicado; even her lawyer had no idea what had happened to her.

Eventually, Ovsyannikova, a mother of two children, was released after a Russian court fined her 30,000 rubles ($280) for violating protest laws, a relatively minor charge considering that the Russian Parliament had unanimously fast-tracked two laws, signed by Putin, which criminalize independent war reporting and protesting the war—with penalties of up to 15 years in prison. The laws make it illegal to spread “fake news” about the Russian military or to call for the Ukrainian war to end. Thousands have since been arrested under these laws.

After the hearing, Ovsyannikova told reporters, “These were indeed some of the hardest days of my life. I spent two days without sleep. I was questioned for more than 14 hours. They didn’t allow me to reach my family or give me any legal aid. I was in a fairly difficult position.”

Though no more charges have been brought against her, at least for now, Ovsyannikova still could be charged under those laws and face a 15-year prison term. “There are still risks that a criminal case will be opened against Ovsyannikova, but the chances of that have sharply decreased after the fine that she received today,” said Pavel Chikov, the head of Agora International Human Rights Group. “She has been fined not for her performance, but for her video message in which she urged people to protest.”

Much speculation exists as to why harsher charges weren’t brought, but many believe that her instant celebrity has shielded Marina. French President Emmanuel Macron has offered her protection, including asylum at the French embassy, though she said that she would not leave Russia regardless of the further charges that she could face. “Unfortunately, I won’t be able to accept this kind offer because I am a patriot; I want to stay and live in my own country with my family, all my friends are here, and I want to stay in Russia,” Ovsyannikova said.


The Courage

 Whatever happens to her, Ovsyannikova’s protest was deeply courageous, and this gusty lady seemed willing to face the consequences.

This story is reminiscent of the three Hebrew men in the Old Testament book of Daniel, when they refused to worship an idol, choosing to face the death penalty rather than violate God’s commandments. (See Daniel 3.) What’s fascinating is that, using imagery borrowed from Daniel’s story, the book of Revelation foretells a time when people in the last days will also have the chance to take a public stand for God by refusing to “worship the beast and his image,” even on pain of death (Revelation 14:11). Like Ovsyannikova’s public stand against her government, it will take much courage and faith to stand for God in the last days.

What are these last-day events, and how will they unfold? To learn more, check out our Study Guide called “The Mark of the Beast.”

Richard Young
Richard Young is a writer for Amazing Facts International and other online and print publications.
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