Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who became a symbol of fearless dissent when she interrupted a live TV broadcast in March to protest her country’s invasion of Ukraine, has been placed under house arrest in Moscow pending a trial related to a fresh anti-war protest in July.
Ovsyannikova was arrested on August 10 in a police raid on her Moscow home. She appeared in court on Thursday (August 11) where she was charged with spreading fake news about the military, an offense that carries up to ten years in prison under Russian law.
The charges are not related to her original TV protest but rather a fresh action in mid-July in which she stood opposite the Kremlin, holding a placard with slogans criticizing President Vladimir Putin and the Russian army. At her feet lay two dolls covered in red dye to highlight the deaths of children in the conflict.
Following her first protest in March, which resulted in a brief arrest and $527 fine (30,000 rubles), Ovsyannikova left Russia and worked briefly for the German newspaper Die Welt on a temporary contract.
She returned to Russia in early July to fight for access to her two children after her ex-husband filed a lawsuit asking for sole custody in Moscow.
Ovsyannikova said in an Instagram post that she knew she could be arrested on her return but despite these fears, she staged further public protests against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
She continued her protests in the courtroom on Thursday. Sitting in the glass defendant’s cage, she defiantly held up an A4 piece of paper bearing the words “May the murdered kids haunt your dreams tonight.”
Local media outlets and human rights groups reported that Ovsyannikova had been placed under house arrest until October 9, pending her trial.
There has been a widespread crackdown on anti-war protests and dissent across Russia since the start of its war in Ukraine on February 24.
Russian independent human rights watchdog OVD-info, estimates that there have been more than 15,000 detentions and at least 178 people are currently going through the courts and could face lengthy prison sentences.