Russian TV journalist detained over criticism of Ukraine war

Marina Ovsyannikova, a TV journalist covering international news on a live-on-air anti-war protest in March, has been detained.

Russian authorities raided the home of a former state TV journalist and detained her as part of a criminal investigation into her alleged spread of false information about the Russian armed forces, her lawyer said on social media.

Marina Ovsyannikova, 44, who quit her job at Russian television in March after on-air protests against Moscow’s war in Ukraine, was detained on Wednesday, her lawyer, Dmitry Zakhavatov, said.

“A criminal case has been opened,” Zakhvatov said, adding that investigators would decide what pre-trial measures to impose on Ovsyannikova.

The case against the TV journalist was brought under a law that punishes statements critical of the Russian military and carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years if convicted.

In March, Ovsyannikova, then an editor at Russia’s Channel One television, arrived on the set of their flagship Vremya (Time) evening news program, holding a poster that read, “Stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they’re lying. you here.”

She was later charged with insulting the Russian military and fined 30,000 rubles ($270 at the time). After leaving her job, Ovsyannikova became somewhat of an activist, holding anti-war protests and speaking out publicly against the conflict.

‘How many children have to die before you stop?’

Criticism of President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops to invade Ukraine in February is illegal in Russia, and her on-air protests have made headlines around the world.

Wednesday’s arrest is linked to a protest Ovsyannikova staged last month when she held a banner that read, “Putin is a killer, his soldiers are fascists,” her lawyer told independent news site Meduza.

Writing on the Telegram messaging app earlier in the day, Ovsyannikova said 10 Russian law enforcement officers raided her home at 6:00 a.m. (03:00 GMT).

“They scared my young daughter,” she said.

Ovsyannikova also hoped that the authorities would not put her in pre-trial detention because she has two children.

She also wrote on Telegram that more than 350 children have already died in Ukraine.

“How many children have to die before you stop?” she added.

Ovsyannikova has been fined twice in recent weeks for insulting the Russian military in a critical Facebook post and for comments she made in court where Ilya Yashin, who is being held on trial for spreading false information about the armed forces, is being held in custody.

Offered asylum by French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this year, Ovsyannikova refused and decided to stay in Russia.

“I don’t want to leave our country. I am a patriot, my son is even more so. We don’t want to leave in any way, we don’t want to go anywhere,” she said.

According to Net Freedoms, a legal aid group that focuses on free speech cases, as of Wednesday, there were 79 criminal cases related to allegations of spreading misinformation about the Russian military and 4,000 administrative cases related to insulting the armed forces.

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