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Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

A woman, who walked into the studio of Russia's state-controlled Channel One (television channel) during a live evening news program holding a poster protesting the war in Ukraine and interrupted the show on Monday, has reportedly gone missing.

The United Nations' human rights office has called upon Russian authorities to ensure that the anti-war protester is not punished for exercising her right to free speech.

The UN's human rights spokesperson, Ravina Shamdasani on Tuesday said that the Russian authorities should ensure she 'does not face reprisals for exercising her right to freedom of expression'.

The Kremlin (the executive branch of the government of Russia) had earlier said the actions of the woman, identified as Maria Ovsyannikova by OVD-Info, an independent human rights media group, has amounted to 'hooliganism'.

OVD-Info on Tuesday tweeted that Ovsyannikova's whereabouts are unknown at this time. "A pre-investigation check was initiated against Channel One employee Maria Ovsyannikova, who came out with an anti-war poster during the live broadcast of the Vremya program, TASS reports citing its source. Where she is, is still unknown," the tweet (in Russian) said.

The moment was a risky protest in a country where independent media has been blocked or shuttered and it has become illegal to contradict the government's narrative of the war.

As reported by an International media channel, an anchor was speaking during the newscast when a woman appeared on camera behind her holding a sign with no war scrawled in English across the top, with a message in Russian below calling on people not to believe Russian propaganda.

Within seconds, the news program cut away to another scene.

Russia's state TV regularly amplifies the government line that says troops entered Ukraine to save people from neo-Nazis and to defend Russians from a country that was preparing to attack. The invasion of Ukraine is being characterized in Russia as a special military operation."

An independent human rights group that monitors political arrests identified the woman as Marina Ovsyannikova. The group, OVD-Info, posted on its website that Ovsyannikova, who identified herself as an employee of the station, was taken into police custody.

Ovsyannikova spoke out against the war in a video on OVD-Info's website.

What is going on now is a crime, she said. Russia is an aggressor country and Vladimir Putin is solely responsible for that aggression.

Speaking in a video address early Tuesday, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Ovsyannikova.

People in Russia have limited access to information from outside their country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed into law a measure that criminalizes the spread of information that is considered by the Kremlin to be fake news.

Media outlets and individuals who publish information that deviates from Putin's narrative are being targeted.

There have been blocks imposed on the BBC, the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza.

Russia has also blocked social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

(With Inputs From AP )

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