A Moscow court ordered Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who briefly achieved fame in the West for holding up a sign condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during a live television broadcast in March, to pay a fine for “discrediting” the Russian army at a second protest.
The sentence, which was handed down at the Meshchansky District Court in Moscow, compelled Ovsyannikova to pay 50,000 rubles, or roughly $800, for a series of social media posts that accused the Russian military of war crimes and claimed that its leaders would soon be tried before an international tribunal. The judge in the case argued that the evidence against the journalist was overwhelming, claiming that there was “no reason to doubt its authenticity.”
During her trial, Ovsyannikova described the proceedings against her as “absurd” and told the judge that she did not regret her statements and would not retract them.
“Your accusations are like accusing me of spreading monkeypox,” she said. “The purpose of the trial is to intimidate all the people who oppose the war in the Russian Federation…The beginning of this war is the biggest crime of our government.” She argued that she had the right to freedom of expression under Article 29 of the Russian constitution, but the judge dismissed her claim.
Ovsyannikova’s lawyer, Dmitry Zakhvatov, also observed after the trial that she had repeatedly been fined for speaking out against Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. Following her initial appearance on the broadcast, Ovsyannikova was fined 30,000 rubles, or roughly $500; she was later arrested and fined again for participating in a rally in support of Moscow City Councilor and opposition leader Ilya Yashin. After the incident at Yashin’s rally, Ovsyannikova was detained for launching a solo demonstration near the Kremlin, at which she held up a sign that criticized Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Although many Russian opposition leaders have fled the country, and many of those who have remained, including Yashin, have since been imprisoned, Zakhvatov confirmed that Ovsyannikova was still in Russia and did not intend to go into exile. Although the journalist briefly left Russia for Germany to work for the German Die Welt newspaper, she returned to Russia in July to settle a custody dispute over her two children.
During their protests, Ovsyannikova and other Russian anti-war demonstrators have risked running afoul of a new law imposing a fifteen-year prison sentence for defaming or spreading false information about the Russian military. However, Russian authorities have not yet announced that they will pursue charges under the law against Ovsyannikova.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.