Russian journalist behind anti-war TV protest arrested and charged with ‘war forgery’

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Russian police briefly arrested journalist Marina Ovsyannikova on Sunday, a state television producer who staging a live anti-war protest in March and accused her of ‘discrediting’ the Russian military.

No official statement has been made, but her detention comes days after Ovsyannikova, 44, protested alone near the Kremlin holding a sign criticizing Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin.

“Marina has been arrested,” her entourage said in a message posted on the journalist’s Telegram account. “There is no information on her whereabouts.”

The post included three photos of her being driven by two police officers towards a white van, after she was apparently arrested while riding her bicycle.

Her lawyer, Dmitry Zakhvatov, confirmed her arrest to the state news agency RIA Novosti, saying he did not know where Ovsyannikova had been taken.

“I guess it’s related in some way to his act of protest,” he added.

Police released Ovsyannikova three hours later, the journalist herself told the independent Telegram news channel Mozhem Obyasnit.

Ovsyannikova said she was accused of ‘discrediting’ the Russian military during last week’s trial of opposition activist and former city deputy Ilya Yashin, where she appeared with other journalists and activists in its favour.

On Friday, Ovsyannikova posted photos of herself on Telegram showing her near the Kremlin and carrying a protest sign referring to the deaths of children and denouncing Putin as a “killer”.

Such statements expose him to criminal prosecution for publishing “false information” and “denigration” of the army, offenses punishable by heavy prison sentences.

She now faces a fine of 50,000 rubles ($900) under the administrative charge of discrediting the army’s actions, according to Avtozak Live, a Telegram channel that tracks detentions across Russia.

Ovsyannikova rose to international fame overnight in March when she staged her live TV protest, holding a poster reading “No War” in English during the flagship evening news program Vremya (Time) on TV Channel One, where she had been editor-in-chief. Photos of her interrupting the show have been seen around the world.

She was briefly detained and later released with a fine, but while a number of international observers welcomed her protest, it was not universally cheered by the Russian opposition.

Some critics said she spent years working for Channel One, which they say was actually a mouthpiece for the Kremlin.

In the months following her March protest, Ovsyannikova spent time abroad, including a brief stint working for the German newspaper Die Welt.

In early July, she announced she was returning to Russia to settle a custody dispute over her children.

AFP contributed reporting.

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