Russian authorities raided the home of a former state TV journalist and detained her as part of a criminal investigation for allegedly spreading false information about the Russian armed forces, her lawyer said on social media.
Marina Ovsyannikova, 44, who quit her job on Russian television in March after making an on-air protest against Moscow’s war in Ukraine, was detained on Wednesday, her lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov said.
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“A criminal case has been launched,” Zakhvatov said, adding that investigators would decide on what pre-trial measures to impose on Ovsyannikova.
The case against the TV journalist was launched under a law that penalises statements critical of the Russian military and a conviction is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
In March, Ovsyannikova, then an editor at Russia’s Channel One television, barged onto the set of its flagship Vremya (Time) evening news programme, holding a poster that read, “Stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here.”
She was later charged with disparaging the Russian military and fined 30,000 rubles ($270 at the time). After quitting her job, Ovsyannikova became somewhat of an activist, staging anti-war pickets and speaking out publicly against the conflict.
‘How many children have to die before you stop?’
Criticism of President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops to invade Ukraine in February has been outlawed in Russia, and her on-air protest made headlines around the world.
The arrest on Wednesday is likely linked to a protest Ovsyannikova staged last month when she held a banner that said, “Putin is a killer, his soldiers are fascists,” her lawyer told the independent news site Meduza.
Writing on the Telegram messaging app earlier in the day, Ovsyannikova said that 10 Russian law enforcement officers raided her home at 6:00am (03:00 GMT).
“They scared my young daughter,” she said.
Ovsyannikova also expressed hope that authorities would not place her in pre-trial detention because she has two children.
She also wrote on Telegram that more than 350 children had already died in Ukraine.
“How many children have to die before you stop?” she added.
Ovsyannikova has been fined twice in recent weeks for disparaging the Russian military in a critical Facebook post and comments she made at a court where opposition figure Ilya Yashin was remanded into custody pending trial on spreading false information about the armed forces.
Offered asylum by France’s President Emmanuel Macron earlier this year, Ovsyannikova refused and has chosen to remain in Russia.
“I don’t want to leave our country. I am a patriot, my son is even more so. We don’t want to leave in any way, we don’t want to go anywhere,” she said.
According to Net Freedoms, a legal aid group focusing on free speech cases, as of Wednesday, there were 79 criminal cases related to charges of spreading false information about the Russian military and up to 4,000 administrative cases on charges of disparaging the armed forces.