Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova has been sentenced to eight and a half years imprisonment by a court in Moscow, following a live on-air protest against Russia’s military advance into Ukraine. The 45-year-old was tried in absentia, having left Russia with her daughter after managing to evade house arrest. Ovsyannikova’s conviction centers on allegations of wilfully spreading misinformation about Russia’s military actions.
It was in February 2022, that Russia reasserted its influence over Ukraine in a large-scale military operation. The use of the term “invasion”, however, is forbidden under Russian legislation. Hence, state-controlled media outlets describe the proceedings as a “special military operation”.
Numerous individuals have been penalized with imprisonment or substantial fines on charges of “discrediting” Russia’s military. Human rights organizations have highlighted these actions as part of an extraordinary crackdown on dissent under the reign of President Vladimir Putin.
The court decreed on Wednesday that the penalty for Ovsyannikova includes a ban on electronic media engagements, encompassing the internet, for a duration of four years. This comes in addition to her sentence to serve time in a “general regime penal colony”.
Ovsyannikova’s protest, which led to these charges, was held close to Moscow’s Kremlin, Putin’s official abode, in July 2022. Intriguingly, during the trial, her prosecution was supported by certain members of her own family, including her ex-husband and son.
Now, Ovsyannikova’s location is undisclosed. She believes her charges are politically driven and she remains unrepentant. In advance of the verdict, she stated, “Of course, I do not admit my guilt”. Reflecting on her actions, she felt she had made a challenging but morally correct decision, and is now compelled to lead a life in exile.
The defiant journalist drew international attention in March 2022, when she intruded on a live news telecast at the state-controlled Channel One TV station, where she was employed, bearing a placard denouncing war and propaganda.
Notwithstanding her own persecution by the Russian authorities, Ovsyannikova has suffered a degree of scepticism from Ukrainian journalists and Russian dissenters, who are critical of her tenure in Russian state media. Her coverage of the war in Ukraine for Germany’s Die Welt newspaper last summer sparked outrage among many Ukrainians, leading them to demand her immediate dismissal.