I thought they’d throw the book at her, keen to make an example of someone who defied the new censorship law forbidding “false information” about the war so brazenly.

Instead they fined her 30,000 rubles, the equivalent of a little less than $300 dollars. The way things are going in Russia, that might be 30 bucks tomorrow.

She had a rough night but appears to be okay. Fourteen hours of interrogation, no lawyer until this afternoon, no phone calls.

Zelensky paid tribute to her in his new video this morning and Emmanuel Macron offered her asylum in France, vowing to bring up her case with Putin himself in their next phone call.

Even so, wild theories are kicking around online about how Marina Ovsyannikova could have made it onto the air of a major Russian news broadcast without being intercepted. Could she be … a Putin pawn? Someone on Twitter argued this morning that Russian authorities might have put her up to it, hoping to gain sympathy in the west for ordinary Russians who’ll bear the brunt of the financial pain from western sanctions. If they can convince Americans and Europeans that there’s a meaningful anti-war movement happening in Russia, perhaps we’ll think twice about keeping those sanctions in place.

But that’s nutty. If Putin wanted westerners to believe Russians are ambivalent about the war, Russian cops wouldn’t be hauling away people for waving blank signs in public spaces. And if he wanted westerners to feel guilty about sanctions, he wouldn’t stage anti-war protests. He’d stage scenes of Russian children starving because their parents’ income isn’t enough to buy food amid hyperinflation.

Before long, we might see those scenes play out without the regime needing to stage them.

The likely explanation for how Ovsyannikova made it onscreen is simple: She worked at the network so her presence near the set wasn’t unexpected. And apparently she wasn’t outspoken about politics until yesterday, giving network security no reason to suspect she might stage a stunt.

Ovsyannikova’s colleagues told me they are very surprised by her act, because they have never heard her talk about politics. “Mostly about children, dogs and the house,” recalls her friend…

The Vremya program is broadcast live three times a day. Usually it is guarded by several people. One of them usually sits a couple of meters from the host. Why this security guard was asleep at the wheel is unknown. Perhaps he did not react to Ovsyannikova since she is a long-term employee of the channel. Besides during the broadcast, make-up artists can always approach the host to fix their makeup, and the guard might not have recognized Ovsyannikova. Her colleagues nervously joke that no one else will be allowed to come to work with broadsheets anymore.

Makes sense. What makes less sense is why she wasn’t slapped with a stiff 15-year sentence for violating the new censorship law, especially after she made that second video yesterday apologizing for having worked at Putin’s propaganda network for so long. (That’s another big clue that Russian authorities didn’t put her up to anything.) Ovsyannikova herself says in the clip up above that they wouldn’t jail her because she has children. And she might be right:

I can buy that, sort of. Even the Russian government might have enough residual humanity in it to think twice about snatching a mom away from her kids over a nonviolent offense. But if ever you’d expect them to be hard-asses, it’s right now. They’re desperate to prevent dissent about the war from boiling over into unrest that might threaten the regime; Ovsyannikova’s high-profile demonstration was an opportunity for them to signal zero tolerance to the rest of the population. Instead she got off with a wrist slap. Why?

If this tweet is correct, there’s an easy answer. She wasn’t fined for crashing the set of Channel One, she was fined for the second video she made criticizing the network:

Presumably she’ll be charged for the TV stunt separately. And she might not get off as lucky on that one.

Anyway. Be grateful you live in a country where people are free to state their unpopular opinions without fear that their opponents will call for them to be criminally punished. Well, usually.

You Might Like
Learn more about RevenueStripe...