Russia TV Channel Says 'No to War' as Staff Walk Out of Studio Live On-Air

Russian staff at independent television channel TV Rain (Dozhd) ended their final broadcast by walking out of the studio in a silent protest live on-air after being ordered to close by authorities due to the broadcaster's coverage of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The leading independent broadcaster was blocked by Russia's telecommunications regulator earlier this week following pressure over its coverage of the Ukraine crisis.

Russian authorities have prohibited media from calling President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine a "war"—state-run media outlets adopt the term "special military operation."

The Russian parliament passed a law on Friday that criminalizes the distribution of "fake news" about the Russian military, with those convicted facing up to 15 years in prison.

Staff at the TV station delivered their final show on YouTube on Thursday, before walking out of their studio live on-air.

"No to war," the television channel's general director, Natalia Sindeyeva, said on Thursday as staff exited the studio.

The channel then broadcast Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," which was aired on Soviet state TV during the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The channel announced Thursday that it would suspend operations indefinitely under mounting pressure from the Kremlin.

"We need strength to exhale and understand how to work further. We really hope that we will return to the air and continue our work," Sindeyeva said in the statement published on the channel's website.

Sindeyeva's statement came shortly after radio station Ekho Moskvy, one of Russia's last standing independent media outlets, shut down following similar pressures over its coverage.

"The Ekho Moskvy board of directors has decided by a majority of votes to liquidate the radio channel and the website of Ekho Moskvy," Editor-in-Chief Alexei Venediktov said in a statement on Telegram.

The two independent media outlets were blocked earlier this week for allegedly violating reporting guidelines on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and disseminating what the Russian prosecutor general called "information known to be false regarding the actions of Russian servicemen, as part of a special operation to protect the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic."

The statement accused the outlets of spreading information that calls "for extremism, violence against citizens of the Russian Federation, mass violations of public order and public security."

Russia's communications regulator Roskomnadzor on February 26 issued its first warnings to TV Rain and Ekho Moskvy, as well as to InoSMI, Mediazona, New Times, Svobodnaya Pressa, Krym.Realii, Novaya Gazeta, Zhurnalist and Lenizdat.

TV Rain Editor-in-Chief Tikhon Dzyadko told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that the outlet suspended operations because "Russian legislators put us in such [a] situation that makes it impossible to continue working as a journalist."

"Tomorrow [Friday], a new bill is set to be adopted about allegedly fake news," he said. "It will make reporting on Ukraine practically impossible, illegal. It poses a threat to all of us, that's why we made such [a] decision."

Russian channel TV Rain (Dozhd)
Russia on August 20, 2021, added independent TV channel Dozhd (TV Rain) to a growing list of "foreign agent" media outlets as liberal organisations face mounting pressure in the country. Staff ended their final broadcast by walking out of the studio live on-air after being ordered to close by authorities due to the broadcaster’s coverage of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images