Ukraine War: Russian authorities raid home of former state journalist who protested against Putin on live TV

Marina Ovsyannikova staged a protest against the war in Ukraine on live TV

Russian authorities have raided the home of a former state television journalist who made an on-air protest against the war in Ukraine.

In March, Marina Ovsyannikova appeared on TV during a live broadcast, holding a sign which read: “NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They are lying to you here.”

It was the first time a Russian state media employee publicly condemned the war.

Authorities have now launched a criminal case against her on the charge of spreading false information about Russia’s armed forces, her lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov wrote on social media.

Marina Ovsyannikova staged a protest against the war in Ukraine on live TV

The case against Ms Ovsyannikova is allowed under a recent law, enacted after the 24 February invasion of Ukraine, that penalises statements against the military.

If convicted, the former journalist faces up to 15 years in prison.

Lawyer Mr Zakhvatov told independent news site Meduza that the case is likely linked to a protest Ms Ovsyannikova staged last month.

She appeared outside the Kremlin holding a banner which said: “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin is a killer, his soldiers are fascists”.

What happened before?

Ms Ovsyannikova made international headlines while working as a producer at Russian state-funded Channel One, when she staged her on-air protest on 14 March.

She appeared behind fellow newscaster Ekaterina Andreeva and her sign, as well as the sound of her shouting “stop the war, no to war”, could be seen and heard for a few seconds before the channel switched to a different report.

At the time, she was charged with disparaging the Russian military and was fined 30,000 roubles (around £223.40).

Prior to the protest, Ms Ovsyannikova also recorded a message which OVD-Info, an independent Russian human rights group, later shared on Twitter.

According to a translation by the Russian human rights group, in the video she said: “What’s happening in Ukraine right now is a true crime. And Russia is the aggressor.

“And the responsibility for this crime lies only on the conscience of one person, and that person is Vladimir Putin.”

She subsequently quit her job, and became somewhat of an activist - staging anti-war pickets and speaking out against the conflict whenever she could.

But Ms Ovsannikova was then fined two more times in recent weeks.

The first she received for disparaging the military in a critical post on Facebook, and the second for comments she made at a court when opposition politician Ilya Yashin was remanded into custody pending trial on spreading false information about the military.

Why was the protest so shocking?

For millions of Russians, State TV is their only news source.

Following the invasion of Ukraine, state television channels such as Channel One have closely followed the Kremlin news line that Russia was forced into action in Ukraine in order to demilitarise and “denazify” the country - as well as to protect Russians in Ukraine from “genocide”.

Since the beginning of the war, more than two dozen Russian media outlets have either been blocked by Russia’s media or had their operations stopped.

Ms Ovsyannikova appeared at court over charges of ‘discrediting’ the Russian arm on August 8

29 UK journalists have also been banned, with a statement published by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating that those included in the list were “involved in the deliberate dissemination of false and one-side information” about Russia and the war in Ukraine.

The list includes the heads of the BBC, The Times, and The Guardian.

Social media platforms Facebook and Instagram have also been banned in the country, and access to foreign and independent media outlets, such as BBC World News, has been restricted by Russian authorities.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Ms Ovsyannikova for her actions.

He said: “I am grateful to those Russians who do not stop trying to convey the truth.

“To those who fight disinformation and tell the truth, real facts to their friends and loved ones, and personally to the woman who entered the studio of Channel One with a poster against the war.”

What happens next?

Ms Ovsyannikova is now expected to be brought into the Investigative Committee for questioning, Mr Zakhvatov said on Telegram.

According to Net Freedoms, a legal aid group focusing on free speech cases, as of today (10 August) there were 79 criminal cases on charges of spreading false information about the military.

There are also up to 4,000 administrative cases on charges of disparaging the armed forces.