Russian TV protester Marina Ovsyannikova escapes house arrest

Marina Ovsyannikova faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison for allegedly spreading false information about Russia’s military.

Former Russian state TV employee Marina Ovsyannikova
Ovsyannikova attracted international attention in March for staging an on-air protest against Russia's war in Ukraine [File: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters]

Russian TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, famous for her on-air protest against the war in Ukraine, says she has escaped house arrest.

“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 as of 30 September 2022 and release myself from it,” Ovsyannikova posted on the Telegram messenger app on Wednesday.

The 44-year-old came to international prominence in mid-March, when she interrupted a live news broadcast to hold up a sign reading: “Stop the war, they’re lying to you.”

For that, she was charged with disparaging the Russian military and fined 30,000 rubles ($270 at the time).

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

In August, she was alleged to have spread fake news and given two months’ house arrest for a protest a month earlier near the Kremlin, when she held up a poster that described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “murderer” and Moscow’s troops “fascists”.

Her lawyer said she expected at a hearing at 10am (07:00 GMT) at a district court in the Russian capital on Wednesday, but that investigators had failed to establish her whereabouts.

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

Her house arrest was due to last until October 9, but the state-run news outlet Russia Today reported on Saturday that she had fled along with her 11-year-old daughter, and that her whereabouts were unknown.

How she left and where she went are still unclear, but on Monday, her name could be seen on the interior ministry’s online list of fugitives from justice, accompanied by a photo, the Reuters news agency reported.

In Wednesday’s Telegram statement, she confirmed her escape, saying she was being persecuted “for telling the truth”.

Russia passed new laws against discrediting or distributing “deliberately false information” about the armed forces on March 4, eight days after invading Ukraine.

The crimes carry sentences of up to 15 years in prison.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies