Moscow’s court has sentenced journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, known for her bold on-air protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to 8.5 years in jail. The 45-year-old journalist, tried in absentia, was found guilty of “spreading knowingly false information” about the Russian armed forces. Ovsyannikova fled Russia last year with her daughter after escaping house arrest, denouncing the charges against her as “absurd.”
The charges against Ovsyannikova were brought after her solo protest near Moscow’s Kremlin, where she held a sign in Russian that read “Putin is a murderer. His soldiers are fascists.” The court sentenced her to eight years and six months imprisonment in a “general regime penal colony” and banned her from engaging in any activities related to electronic media, including the internet, for four years.
Ovsyannikova’s protest gained international attention in March 2022 when she interrupted a live news broadcast at the state-run Channel One TV station, where she worked at the time, with a sign stating “no war, stop the war; don’t believe the propaganda; they’re lying to you here.” Despite her courage, she has faced criticism from Ukrainian journalists and Russian dissidents, citing her previous work for Russian state media.
The charges and subsequent sentence have been widely criticised as politically motivated, with Ovsyannikova describing her actions as “the only correct moral choice” against the war. Her exact location remains unknown as she continues to live in exile.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has led to an unprecedented crackdown on dissent within the country. Many journalists and activists critical of the government have faced persecution, leading to concerns about the state of freedom of speech and human rights in the country under President Vladimir Putin’s regime. International human rights organisations and the global community continue to monitor the situation closely.