Ever since journalist Marina Ovsyannikova protested on live Russian television against the war in Ukraine, her life has changed radically. Now that includes writing for leading German daily Die Welt. In her first article, Ovsyannikova explains what drove her action, how police have targeted her and why the Kremlin's propaganda works on so many of her fellow Russians.
MOSCOW — My life is divided into a before and an after. Moral principles at some point became more important than well-being, peace of mind and a regular life.
The war in Ukraine was the point of no return. It was no longer possible to remain silent.
Trying to help
I've begun collecting humanitarian aid for refugees. About 400 Ukrainians were brought to the Kaluga region, not far from Moscow. They were housed in local sanatoriums.
My neighbors and friends responded to the appeal with great enthusiasm. For several days, many things, including hygiene products and toys, were brought to my house. There were so many things that I had to order a truck.
I am now subjected to unimaginable harassment.
But when my cameraman and I arrived at the sanatorium where the Ukrainians were housed, they simply wouldn't let us in. Everything was sealed off because of quarantine. The refugees lived behind a high fence, they were guarded there. I was not allowed to talk to them.
Being harrassed — online and in real life
On social networks, I am now subjected to unimaginable harassment. Ukrainians call me an agent of FSB, the Russian intelligence services; while Russians write that I am a traitor working for MI6, the British secret service. They are looking for a hidden meaning to my actions and making up the most incredible conspiracy theories. Nobody wants to believe that what I did was a regular citizen's protest driven by her emotions.
When I went to pick up my car from the parking lot of the TV station after my protest, all the wheels were flat. The next morning it wouldn't start, there was a problem with the battery. I am quite sure it was a petty act of revenge by police officers.
Last week I was at my sports club to participate in the international charity swim #SwimforUkraine. It had been organized by swimmers from Brooklyn on Facebook. But I didn't make it to the pool. The club management had blocked my membership card. But I didn't give up and went to another pool, where I did my swim.
Yesterday the operator of the dog kennel, an ardent supporter of Putin, blocked the supply of food for my dogs. Now I am looking around for a new supplier.
Marina Ovsiannikova protesting Russian invasion of Ukraine on state TV on March 14
Screenshot Russian Channel One
Patriots and heroes
But I have not lost my optimism. Around me, many smart people have emerged who are not afraid to express their point of view. A clear "No" to the war came from Sergei Knizhov, a former Aeroflot pilot, the son of a Russian hero. He is a true patriot.
Neither a trumped-up charge nor three years in prison could change his mind. Despite all the repression he faced, he did not leave Russia. He managed to clear his name and is now active against the war.
More and more people write that they are ready to sacrifice everything to stop this madness. A girl from a small town writes to me that she is trying to convince her friends not to believe the Kremlin propaganda. A journalism student at my former university writes me, "Thank you, you have restored my faith in my profession."
Lyubov Yakubovskaya, a local politician in Moscow, was just fined 50,000 rubles, the equivalent of just under 600 euros, by a Moscow court. She had posted an article about Bucha on Facebook. In doing so, she violated the law that prohibits publicly "discrediting" the Russian armed forces. She was defended by one of my lawyers, Anton Gaschinski.
Polls are skewed
I know that the latest poll by the Levada Center is confusing people. Supposedly, 83% of Russians support Putin. But the poll was carried out in a dictatorship. In the middle of a war, when every word against it is considered treason, for which you are put in prison for 15 years.
Young people bypass the blockade via VPN, but many older people are left with only state propaganda.
Russians are afraid. In Moscow, virtually no one picks up the phone when a foreign number calls. All spam calls are blocked. That's why hardly any young person in the big cities takes part in the surveys. Levada also carries out surveys at home. No one has time for that in the big cities. On the Russian Internet portal Yandex, many people also write that they do not participate in surveys.
It is an open secret among Russians that it is older people who tend to participate in surveys, often those who live in the countryside and know nothing more than what the TV propaganda shows them.
The last independent media, Novaya Gazeta, was closed a couple of weeks ago. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are blocked. Young people bypass the blockade via VPN networks, but many older people are left with only state propaganda.
If someone suddenly shows up or calls and asks: do you support the special military operation and Vladimir Putin personally? What do you think they will answer?
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