Russian TV protester flees country after escaping house arrest

Marina Ovsyannikova, known for her anti-war protests, faced 10 years in prison in Russia for spreading ‘fake news’.

Former Russian state TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who interrupted a live news broadcast with an anti-war protest and was accused of spreading “fake news” about the war in Ukraine, has fled the country after escaping from house arrest, according to her lawyer.

Ovsyannikova is currently “under the protection of a European state”, lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov said on Monday, declining to elaborate as “it may turn out to be a problem” for her.

In March, Ovsyannikova interrupted a live evening news programme on Russia’s state television, holding up a sign behind the studio presenter that said “NO WAR. Stop the war” and “Don’t believe the propaganda”.

She was arrested, charged with disparaging the Russian military and fined 30,000 roubles ($270 at the time).

The Kremlin denounced her protest as “hooliganism”.

The Channel One editor quit her job but refused to accept an asylum offer in France from President Emmanuel Macron, saying “I don’t want to leave our country”.

After quitting her job, Ovsyannikova became an activist, staging anti-war pickets.

The 44-year-old was given two months’ house arrest in August over a protest in July when she held up a poster that described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “murderer” and Moscow’s troops as “fascists”.

On October 5, Ovsyannikova posted on the Telegram messenger app that she escaped the house arrest, saying, “I consider myself completely innocent, and since our state refuses to comply with its own laws, I refuse to comply with the measure of restraint imposed on me”.

She faces up to 10 years in prison on charges of spreading fake news about Russia’s armed forces if found guilty.

Her whereabouts since then have been unknown.

Zakhvatov said Ovsyannikova’s daughter left the country with her, while her son remained in Russia. He declined to say where she was but told the Reuters news agency: “Soon everything will be made public. We need a couple of weeks.”

On March 4, Russia passed a new law under which Russians could face prison sentences of up to 15 years for spreading information that goes against the Russian government’s position on the war in Ukraine, a move that came as authorities blocked access to foreign media outlets.

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