On-air protest Russian journalist charged
Russian authorities have charged journalist Marina Ovsyannikova over spreading “disinformation” about the Russian military.
Ovsyannikova became known to global audiences in March, when she unfurled a placard critical of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine during a live evening-news broadcast. The journalist has since staged several more protests decrying Russia’s use of force against its neighbor.
On Wednesday, Ovsyannikova’s attorney, Dmitry Zahvatov published a post on Facebook, confirming that his client had officially been charged under paragraph 207.3 of the country’s penal code, which was introduced soon after the Kremlin began its offensive against Ukraine. If found guilty, the journalist could face up to ten years behind bars.
The 44-year-old is suspected of “publicly spreading disinformation on the use of the armed forces, motivated by political, ideological, racial, national or religious hatred or enmity or by hatred or enmity toward a social group.”
Zahvatov revealed that the journalist had been apprehended early on Wednesday morning, with police officers “forcing their way” into her house. The residence was searched, and Ovsyannikova was taken to Moscow and interrogated, the lawyer added.
So far, no decision has been made as to whether she will be kept in pre-trial detention or released on bail, the attorney added.
He said that the criminal probe had been launched by Russia’s Investigative Committee over Ovsyannikova’s July 15 protest on the Moskva river embankment outside the Kremlin, where she unfurled a placard accusing Putin of being a murderer, and likened Russian soldiers to fascists.
Last month a Moscow court fined her 50,000 rubles ($813). As she later explained to Russian media, that fine was imposed over her speech critical of Russia’s military offensive, which she delivered outside a court where the case of opposition Moscow municipal lawmaker, Ilya Yashin, had been heard.
In early August, Ovsyannikova was slapped with one more fine, over a Facebook post criticizing Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.
On March 14, by which time she was working at Russia’s 1 TV channel, Ovsyannikova walked behind a news presenter during a live broadcast and unfurled a placard, part of which was written in English, part in Russian.
The message read: “No war (in English). Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda.” It also accused the media of lying and stated in English: “Russians against war.” The woman shouted several times, “stop the war!” The live broadcast was not interrupted and the protester was visible for several seconds.
Following her on-air protest, Ovsyannikova was briefly detained and later fined, though not over the protest itself, but rather for a video message she had recorded in advance and posted on social media. In it, she called for, among other things, Russians to take part in unauthorized protests against Moscow’s “special operation” in Ukraine.
Ovsyannikova’s performance quickly made her a darling of the Western media.
In April, the Russian journalist was hired by Germany’s Die Welt news channel as an untenured correspondent. However, she later revealed that this contract had expired after three months.
Authorities are yet to comment on the most recent charges against Ovsyannikova.