Russia’s security services on Wednesday raided the home of Marina Ovsyannikova, a former editor of the state-run Channel One network who denounced Moscow’s war on Ukraine during a live TV broadcast, media human rights group OVD-Info said.
According to Dmitry Zakhvatov, an OVD-Info lawyer who is assisting Ovsyannikova, Russian security forces kicked in the door to her house, without waiting for her legal representative to arrive. Zakhvatov said Ovsyannikova is being taken before the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, a powerful federal body that is comparable to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Zakhvatov said Russian authorities had initiated a criminal case relating to charges of disseminating false information about the country’s armed forces, under a new law adopted by the Kremlin after the war. The maximum penalty is 15 years in prison.
It’s not known whether Ovsyannikova herself is facing the charges related to the raid, and POLITICO could not reach her for comment.
Ovsyannikova came to international attention in March, when she crashed the set of Russia’s top evening newscast Vremya wearing a necklace in the colors of the Ukrainian and Russian flags, and brandishing an anti-war poster. She paid a fine of 30,000 rubles (at that time, around €250) in connection to her protest, but her lawyers indicated she could face further charges at a later point.
After being fined, Ovsyannikova fled Russia and was hired by Germany’s Die Welt newspaper (which is owned by POLITICO’s parent company Axel Springer). But she subsequently returned to Russia to fight a parental custody battle, she said on social media. She has continued to criticize the war.
Over the past two weeks, Russian courts have ordered Ovsyannikova to pay two additional fines for discrediting the country’s army in her social media posts. She was also briefly detained mid-July. At that time, her lawyer did not rule out the possibility of a criminal probe.
Since the Kremlin launched its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has clamped down on protests and criticism of the war. Increasing restrictions have forced Russian journalists to flee the country. Western reporters have also been banned from entering Russia.
Florian Eder contributed reporting.