Not even a month had passed since the invasion of Ukraine when, on March 15, 2022, the Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova broke out live on state television showing a handwritten sign reading “No to war. Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda, they tell you lies here.”
A year and a half later a Russian court sentenced her to eight years and six months in prison in a penal colony. The prosecutor had asked for 9 and a half. The sentence does not formally refer to those sentences, but to the protests that the journalist carried out in the months to come. The verdict was read in her absence, as the trial has been held in absentia since 45-year-old Ovsyannikova fled to France with her daughter after managing to evade house arrest surveillance. From Paris, the French Foreign Ministry immediately denounced the decision of the Russian justice system, saying it was “very concerned about the intensification of the campaign of repression conducted by the Moscow authorities against critical voices of power”.
The reporter was – and is – one of these, despite some accusing her of playing a double game and of actually being a spy in the pay of the Kremlin due to her past as a propagandist and because she asked that the sanctions only hit the tsar and the oligarchs , thus saving the country’s economy and, consequently, the lives of citizens. The 14 hours of interrogation without a lawyer, the continuous protests against Putin or the videos in which the journalist said she was “sincerely sorry” for having contributed to “turning the Russians into zombies with propaganda” by working “for the state broadcaster Perwyj Kanal”.
After the television foray, the journalist resigned from the network and worked for a period at Welt, in Germany. In July 2022, however, she was forced to return to Russia due to a legal dispute with her ex-husband, Igor Ovsyannikov, for custody of her eleven-year-old daughter: a Moscow court resolved it by establishing that she should stay with her father because the mother “is engaged in political activities”. Her protest against Moscow and the war continued and, after yet another solitary demonstration, the reporter ended up under house arrest on charges of spreading false information about the Russian Armed Forces. A sword of Damocles that Ovsyannikova carried with her even after her escape to France and which has now definitively fallen on her.