Russian woman behind on-air war protest reportedly escapes house arrest
Russia has put Marina Ovsyannikova, the former state TV editor who interrupted a news broadcast to protest against the Ukraine war, on a wanted list after she reportedly escaped house arrest.
The Ukrainian-born Ovsyannikova, 44, gained international attention in March after bursting into a studio of Channel One, her then employer, to denounce the Ukraine war during a live news bulletin, holding a poster reading “no war”. At the time she was fined 30,000 roubles (£460) for shunning protest laws.
Ovsyannikova continued protesting against the war and was charged in August with spreading false information about the Russian army for holding up a poster that read “Putin is a murderer, his soldiers are fascists” during a solo protest on the Moskva River embankment opposite the Kremlin. She was subsequently placed under house arrest to await trial and was facing up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
On Saturday, Ovsyannikova’s ex-husband said she had escaped house arrest together with her young daughter.
“Last night, my ex-wife left the place that the court assigned her, and disappeared with my 11-year-old daughter in an unknown direction,” Igor Ovsyannikov, who is employed at the state-run news outlet RT, said.
Ovsyannikova’s whereabouts are unknown and she did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Monday, she was added to the interior ministry’s online list of fugitives, accompanied by a photograph.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Russia has launched an unprecedented crackdown on protesters, independent news outlets and foreign social media networks. In early March, the president, Vladimir Putin, signed off on a draconian law imposing a jail term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally “fake” news about the military, in effect criminalising any public criticism of the war.
Hundreds of leading Russian independent journalists and activists have fled the country, fearing a wave of government repression. But the war in Ukraine also resulted in a steady stream of resignations from Russia’s tightly controlled state-run television channels.
Last month, Zhanna Agalakova, a former Channel One newsreader who at the time of her resignation in March was the station’s correspondent in Paris, announced she was returning the two state medals she received from Putin for her work at the channel.
“Mr President, your leadership is leading the country to the abyss,” Agalakova said in a handwritten note posted on her Facebook page. “I consider your awards unacceptable.”