Marina Ovsyannikova.
Marina Ovsyannikova.

MOSCOW: Russian investigators on Wednesday laun­ched a criminal probe against Marina Ovsya­nnikova, who denounced President Vlad­imir Putin’s attack on Ukraine on live TV, and detained the journalist, her lawyer said.

In mid-July, Ovsyannikova staged a one-woman protest near the Kremlin, holding a poster that read “Putin is a murderer, his soldiers are fascists.”

Three “blood-soaked” toy dolls were laid on the ground in front of her. She now faces up to 10 years in prison, if convicted.

“A criminal case has been launched,” lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov said, adding they were waiting for investigators to decide on a pre-trial measure for the 44-year-old.

Ovsyannikova has been charged with spreading information about the Russian armed forces deemed false by the government and will spend the night in pre-trial detention, said Zakhvatov.

In an interview last week, Ovsyannikova had expressed hope that the authorities would not place her in pre-trial detention because she has two children. Writing on messaging app Telegram earlier in the day, Ovsyannikova said that 10 members of law enforcement had raided her home at 6am. “They scared my young daughter,” she added.

In March, Ovsyannikova, then an editor at Channel One television, shot to prominence when she barged onto the set of its flagship Vremya (Time) evening news, holding a poster reading “No War” in English.

Criticism of Putin’s decision to send troops to Ukraine has been virtually outlawed in Russia, and her protest made headlines around the world.

French President Emm­anuel Macron has offered Ovsyannikova, who worked for Russian state TV for 19 years, asylum or other forms of consular protection.

Putin launched the attack on Ukraine after a historic crackdown on the opposition, with top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in prison and his political organisations outlawed. Authorities are now seeking to snuff out the last vestiges of dissent, and nearly all well-known activists are now in jail or out of the country.

Earlier this year prominent Putin critics Ilya Yashin and Vladimir Kara-Murza were put in pre-trial jail for denouncing Moscow’s Ukraine offensive.

The criminal probe against Ovsyannikova was launched after two Moscow courts ordered the journalist to pay fines for discrediting the Russian army on various occasions.

Writing on Telegram on Wednesday, she said that more than 350 children had already died in Ukraine. “How many children have to die before you stop?” she added.

In the months following her TV protest, Ovsya­nnikova spent time abroad, working for Germany’s Die Welt for three months.

In early July, she announced that she was returning to Russia to settle a dispute over the custody of her two children.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2022

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