Express & Star

Ex-Russian state TV journalist sentenced in absentia over Ukraine war criticism

Marina Ovsyannikova fled the country with her daughter after being placed under house arrest.

Marina Ovsyannikova

A Moscow court has handed a former state TV journalist an eight-and-a-half year prison term in absentia for protesting against Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Marina Ovsyannikova’s sentence is the latest incident in a months-long crackdown against dissent that has intensified since Moscow’s invasion began 20 months ago.

Ovsyannikova was charged with spreading false information about the Russian army, a criminal offence under a law adopted shortly after the Kremlin sent troops to Ukraine.

She took part in a demonstration in the Russian capital in July 2022, and held a poster that read: “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin is a killer. His soldiers are fascists. 352 children have been killed (in Ukraine). How many more children need to die for you to stop?”

Ovsyannikova, who until March 2022 worked at for Russia’s state-run Channel One, was detained and placed under house arrest, but managed to escape to France with her daughter. Russian authorities put her on a wanted list and prosecuted and tried her in absentia.

In March 2022 Ovsyannikova made international headlines after appearing behind the anchor of an evening Channel One news broadcast with a poster that said “Stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here”.

She quit her job at the channel, was charged with disparaging the Russian military and fined 30,000 roubles (about £250).

Thousands of Russians have been fined and hundreds have faced criminal charges over publicly speaking out or protesting against the war in the last 20 months.

The Kremlin has used legislation outlawing criticism of what it insists on calling a “special military operation” to target opposition figures, human rights activists and independent media.

Top Kremlin critics have been handed lengthy prison terms, rights groups have been forced to shut down, independent news sites were blocked and independent journalists have left the country, fearing prosecution.

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