Russian journalist escaped house arrest and fled with her 11-year-old daughter

Marina Ovsyannikova

Marina Ovsyannikova — the Russian journalist who made international headlines after protesting the war in Ukraine live on state television in March — has escaped house arrest and fled with her 11-year-old daughter, according to Russia’s Interior Ministry.

In her first remarks since fleeing Russia earlier this week, Ovsyannikova said she considers herself “completely innocent” and issued a call for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be isolated from society and put on trial.

“Since our state refuses to comply with its own laws, I refuse to comply with the measure of restraint imposed on me in the form of house arrest, and I release myself from it as of September 30, 2022,” Ovsyannikova posted to Telegram from an undisclosed location Wednesday.

Marina Ovsyannikova, a former Russian state TV journalist

“Respected employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service, put such a bracelet on Putin,” she said in a video, seemingly referring to the electronic tracking device she has been forced to wear on her ankle by Russian officials. “It is he who must be isolated from society not me, and he should be tried for the genocide of the people of Ukraine and for the fact that he destroys the male population of Russia en masse.”

Ovsyannikova, a former senior editor at Channel One, the Russian state-controlled television channel, staged an astonishing protest live on air on March 14, when she burst onto the set of an evening news program, holding a poster and chanting “stop the war” and denouncing government “propaganda.”

She shouted, “No to war!” and held up a placard condemning the invasion of Ukraine and telling people not to believe government lies — a striking moment of public protest as the Kremlin cracked down on any criticism of its invasion in Ukraine.

Her protest was widely hailed as a dangerous act of resistance as Russia moved to crack down on critics and public displays of dissent amid its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s parliament passed a law banning what it considers “fake” news about the military, including any rhetoric that calls the invasion of Ukraine an “invasion” — the preferred language is “special military operation” — with a potential 15-year prison sentence.

Putin signed it into law hours later.

Russia was most recently ranked 150th out of 180 nations on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by the nonprofit Reporters Without Borders, and the government has often pushed restrictions on independent media during times of military conflict, according to Gulnoza Said, coordinator for Europe and Central Asia programs for the Committee to Protect Journalists. But the latest crackdown is unprecedented.

It remains unclear how she managed to escape, along with her 11-year-old daughter. Ovsyannikova did not respond to calls and text messages from journalists in recent days.

Ovsyannikova’s ex-husband told authorities that she was missing on Saturday. Igor Ovsyannikov said that he did not know where his ex-wife was and that his daughter does not have a passport.

She has since been fined twice for the offense of discrediting Russia’s military and was placed under a two-month house arrest in August on charges of spreading fake news about the military, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years.

The latter related to a protest in July when she stood on the river embankment opposite the Kremlin in central Moscow and held up a poster calling the Russian president and his soldiers fascists.

“How many more children must die before you will stop?” the poster read.

Ovsyannikova’s remarks came as Putin signed a document formalizing the annexation of four regions of Ukraine, a breach of international law.

Despite the move, Ukrainian troops are making a “fast and powerful advance” in the country’s south and liberating “dozens of settlements” from Russian control, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

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