Russians protest fighting in Ukraine as Moscow asks China for military assistance

As some Russians protest the conflict in Ukraine a former senior Kremlin official has criticized the operations there. This comes after an employee of Russian state television on Monday interrupted a live newscast to demonstrate against the fighting and amid reports that Russia asked China for military assistance. Special correspondent Ryan Chilcote joins Judy Woodruff from Moscow to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to the view from Moscow.

    Our Ryan Chilcote is there, as the conflict accelerates in Ukraine, as do some Russians' protest against it.

    Ryan, good evening. Good to see you.

    First of all, we understand now that a former Kremlin official has criticized the Russian operations in Ukraine? How significant is that?

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    I think it's significant, Judy.

    He name is Arkady Dvorkovich. He is a former deputy prime minister. He's out of government. But he's not so far out that he wouldn't have thought long and hard before he made the comments that he did. And he did break one of the cardinal rules here, which is, he did not refer to the conflict as a — what the Kremlin insists we refer to it, as a special military operation in Ukraine.

    He also — and I know him very well. I have interviewed him more than half-a-dozen times. He's the president to have the International Chess Federation. Maybe that's where some of this is coming from. Obviously, chess is massive in Russia. It's also massive in Ukraine.

    And there's a huge debate going on in the chess world right now whether he should be president because he's Russian, whether Russians should be able to play chess and compete under the Russian flag — the answer is no, just like in the Olympics — and what goes on for — from here on.

    And I think what's extraordinary here is, we are seeing people in the Russian elite, if you will, trying to figure out what they can sort of get away with, if you will. We heard a lot of Russian billionaires, industrialists make very careful comments about the conflict in Ukraine over the last couple of weeks.

    But Arkady Dvorkovich is the first former government official, and I think it's meaningful.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And then separately from that, Ryan, yesterday, an employee of state television interrupted a newscast live to protest the fighting in Ukraine.

    She held up a sign that said "No war." Do we know what's happened to her?

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    Yes, we do, Judy.

    Her name is Marina Ovsyannikova. And, today, she appeared in court. And she was fined the equivalent of $250, which, by Russian standards, is really a slap on the wrist. She could have been punished much more severely.

    Now, we don't know that she's entirely out of the woods, legally speaking, because it is possible that a prosecutor could go after her for violating the Russian law about fake news on Russia's military activities in Ukraine. If she was found to have fallen afoul of that law, then she could be sent to jail for 15 years, obviously, something much more severe than the $250.

    But, also, this was on state TV. Millions of Russians would have seen it. And, again, Russians also get their news on things like Telegram, which is a messenger here. And tens of millions of Russians would have seen it there. I saw it on several message groups myself.

    And, Judy, even the leading independent newspaper here in Russia — yes, there still is one independent newspaper called Novaya Gazeta — even they avoided using the words that we're not supposed to and took that poster that protester had on that Russian TV set, and reduced it to the words "Don't believe the propaganda," i.e., removing the words that could get that newspaper in trouble.

    So there's a huge sensitivity right now about this law about fake news and how people discuss what is happening in Ukraine.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ryan Chilcote reporting tonight from Moscow.

    Thank you, Ryan.

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