A former Russian state television journalist who gained global attention for staging a rare protest against the war in Ukraine live on air has been placed under house arrest on criminal charges by a Moscow court over a recent demonstration against President Vladimir V. Putin, her lawyer said Thursday.
The authorities raided the home of the journalist, Marina Ovsyannikova, early Wednesday as she was sleeping and detained her for questioning, she said in a post on social media. She was charged with spreading “false information” about the Ukraine invasion under a new law enacted in Russia in the wake of the war, and could face up to 10 years in prison, her lawyer, Dmitri Zakhvatov, said.
Thousands of Russians protested the war shortly after Mr. Putin sent troops to Ukraine, but the Russian government responded swiftly by passing the new law, which essentially makes any criticism of the conflict illegal. That has chilled activism across the country and prompted many opponents of the war to leave. Ms. Ovsyannikova is one of the few outspoken opponents of the war still in the country and has already received multiple fines for her protests.
Mr. Zakhvatov said in a post on the Telegram messaging app that the new charge stems from a protest in July, when she stood on a Moscow embankment opposite the Kremlin with a poster that read: “Putin is a killer. His soldiers are fascists.”
In her Wednesday post, Ms. Ovsyannikova asked: “Are the 350 children who died in Ukraine fakes?”, referring to a number reported by the Ukrainian government. “How many children must die for you to stop?”
In cases involving prominent opposition activists, the Russian government has sent signals warning them of the possible consequences of their criticism or tacitly pushed them to leave the country. In the case of Ms. Ovsyannikova, Russian courts have so far issued three fines, but for administrative, not criminal, offenses. In March, Ms. Ovsyannikova was working as an editor at the flagship news program on Channel One, one of Russia’s most popular television networks, when she appeared behind an anchor during an evening newscast with a poster that said: “Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They are lying to you here.”
She was charged with staging an illegal protest and fined.
She later quit her job and continued to openly criticize the war. On Monday, a court in Moscow fined her $650 for discrediting Russian armed forces in a post on Facebook. In July, she was fined $820 on the same charge for publicly calling the Russian war “the worst crime of the 21st century.”
More than 200 people have been charged with criminal offenses for protesting the war, according to OVD Info, a rights organization that tracks such cases. In July, a court in Moscow sentenced Aleksei Gorinov, an opposition lawmaker, to seven years in prison for denouncing the invasion.