The Russian journalist who was earlier this week reported missing after storming a live news broadcast on state controlled Russian TV has been released and charged.
In an act of public bravery rarely seen, earlier this week Marina Ovsyannikova burst onto Russia’s Channel One news to protest Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in front of millions of viewers. During a live broadcast on Monday 14th March, Marina – who is an editor at the state-controlled channel Vremya – ran behind the presenting news anchor to hold a sign that read: ‘No war, stop the war, don't believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here.’
Soon after, ‘Where is Marina Ovsyannikova?’ was trending on google as well as ‘Russian news protest’ and searches for Marina Ovsyannikova’s social media handles like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Hauntingly, though, in the days that followed her whereabouts were unknown, with Labour MP Nadia Whittome tweeting that she was missing.
Where is Marina Ovsyannikova now?
After protest, Marina was detained and has now been charged 30,000 roubles - about £215 – following a short hearing.
Marina has been charged not for interrupting the broadcast, but for a short video she posted to her own social media before the event in which she said she was 'ashamed' to have worked for a station spreading 'Kremlin propaganda'.
Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, she said she was unsurprised she'd been released as a mother to two children, but that 'These were indeed some of the hardest days of [her] life.'
She added, 'I spent two days without sleep. I was questioned for more than 14 hours. They didn’t allow me to reach my family or give me any legal aid. I was in a fairly difficult position.'
Is Marina Ovsyannikova missing?
Thankfully, not any more.
According to the BBC, Marina’s lawyers stated that they had been searching for her since the broadcast but were initially unable to find her. Reports state that she was arrested under new laws in Russia that ban anyone from calling the war in Ukraine an ‘invasion’ or spreading ‘fake news’ about the conflict.
‘Marina Ovsyannikova has not yet been found,’ Pavel Chikov, one of the lawyers, said. ‘She has been imprisoned for more than 12 hours.’ Anastasia Kostanova, another of Marina’s lawyers, told reporters she had ‘spent the whole night looking’ for her. ‘This means that they are hiding her from her lawyers and trying to deprive her of legal assistance and, apparently, they are trying to prepare the most stringent prosecutions,’ she said.
But by that evening, Marina had appeared in a Moscow courtroom unharmed and in the same clothes she'd been wearing during the protest.
The strictest punishment for breaking Russian law around the representation of the war is a 15-year prison sentence. Pavel also said that Marina was likely to be fined 30,000 to 60,000 roubles (£205-£410), meaning Marina's sentencing was particularly light.
It appears Marina was well aware of the risk of her protest, recording a video prior to the incident where she called the Ukraine invasion a ‘crime’ and said she was ashamed to work for Channel One – which she called Kremlin propaganda. Currently, state-controlled Russian news refer to the war as a ‘special military operation’ and imply that Ukraine is the aggressor, describing Ukraine's elected government as neo-Nazis. Russian news has long been government-controlled with independent viewpoints rarely aired.
‘I'm ashamed that I allowed myself to tell lies from the television screen,’ Marina said in the video. ‘Ashamed that I allowed Russians to be turned into zombies…we just silently watched this inhumane regime.’
She called on other Russian people to also protest the war, saying that only they could ‘stop the madness’. ‘Don't be afraid of anything, they can't imprison all of us,’ she said.
The rest of her team, however, appear to be surprised by Marina’s protest. One anonymous colleague told the Faridaily blog that she never discussed politics at work, only chatting about her ‘[two] children, dogs and the house.’ Marina’s father is Ukrainian, with the journalist receiving tons of praise on her social media for her actions – including Ukraine's President Zelensky who thanked her for ‘telling the truth’.
What is Marina Ovsyannikova’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter?
While fake accounts of the editor have popped up since the protest, one private account appears to be real, linked from a Facebook account where she has over 27,000 followers. You can find Marina Ovsyannikova’s Instagram here and Facebook here. Her Twitter appears to be deleted.