Russian authorities on Wednesday detained a former state TV journalist who quit after making an on-air protest against Moscow’s war in Ukraine, and charged her with spreading false information about Russia’s armed forces, her lawyer said on social media.
Marina Ovsyannikova was charged over a protest she staged last month, invoking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s name in a banner that said: “Putin is a killer, his soldiers are fascists. 352 children have been killed [in Ukraine]. How many more children should die for you to stop?”
If tried and convicted, Ovsyannikova faces up to 10 years in prison under a new law that penalizes statements against the military and that was enacted shortly after Russian troops moved into Ukraine, lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov said in a Telegram post.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ovsyannikova’s home was raided, and she was taken for questioning. Zakhvatov said she will spend the night in a holding cell at Moscow police headquarters.
WATCH | Ovsyannikova’s protest heard around the world:
On-air protest made headlines
Ovsyannikova, born to a Ukrainian father and Russian mother, used to work as a producer with Russian state-funded Channel One.
She made international headlines on March 14, when she appeared behind the anchor of an evening news broadcast holding a poster that said “stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here.” She was charged with disparaging the Russian military and fined 30,000 rubles ($347 Cdn at the time).
After quitting her job, Ovsyannikova became somewhat of an activist, staging antiwar pickets and speaking out publicly against the conflict.
“Sadly, during the past years I worked at Channel One, I spread the Kremlin propaganda and I am very ashamed of this,” she said not long after her protest. “I am ashamed I allowed Russian people to be fooled.”
She was fined two more times in recent weeks for disparaging the military in a critical Facebook post and comments she made at a court where opposition figure Ilya Yashin was remanded in custody pending trial for spreading false information about the military.
According to Net Freedoms, a legal aid group focusing on free speech cases, as of Wednesday there were 79 criminal cases on charges of spreading false information about the military and up to 4,000 administrative cases on charges of disparaging the armed forces.
Zelenskyy vows response to Russian shelling
Ukraine will respond to the Russian shelling of a town in the Dnipropetrovsk region and needs to consider how to inflict as much damage on Russia as possible to end the war quickly, President Volodomyr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday.
Ukraine said 13 people died and 10 were wounded when Russia fired rockets at Marhanets from the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant it captured.
“The armed forces of Ukraine, our intelligence and our law enforcement agencies will not leave today’s Russian shelling of Dnipropetrovsk region unanswered,” Zelenskyy said in a late night video address.
The attack, he said, underlined the need for allies to supply more powerful weapons to the Ukrainian military.
“The more losses the occupiers suffer, the sooner we will be able to liberate our land and ensure the security of Ukraine,” he said.
“This is what everyone who defends our state and helps Ukraine should think about — how to inflict the greatest possible losses on the occupiers in order to shorten the war.”
Valentyn Reznychenko, governor of Ukraine’s central Dnipropetrovsk region, said on Wednesday that the Russian attack on Marhanets was carried out with 80 Grad rockets.
More than 20 buildings had been damaged in the town on the other side of the Dnipro river from the power plant, he said.
Images supplied by Ukrainian officials showed the rubble-strewn corridor of a school with its windows blown out and a residential building pierced by a rocket.
Ukraine mocks Russian explanation of Crimea blast
Ukraine’s air force said Wednesday that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in a deadly string of explosions at an air base in Crimea.
Russia denied any aircraft were damaged in Tuesday’s blasts — or that any attack took place.
Ukrainian officials stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility for the explosions — which killed one person and injured 14 others — while mocking Russia’s explanation that a careless smoker might have caused ammunition at the Saki air base to catch fire and blow up. Analysts also said that explanation doesn’t make sense and that the Ukrainians could have used anti-ship missiles to strike the base.
If Ukrainian forces were, in fact, responsible for the blasts, it would be the first known major attack on a Russian military site on the Crimean Peninsula, which was seized from Ukraine by the Kremlin in 2014. Russian warplanes have used Saki to strike areas in Ukraine’s south.
Crimea holds huge strategic and symbolic significance for both sides. The Kremlin’s demand that Ukraine recognize Crimea as part of Russia has been one of its key conditions for ending the fighting, while Ukraine has vowed to drive the Russians from the peninsula and all other occupied territories.
Russian authorities sought to downplay the explosions on Wednesday, saying all hotels and beaches were unaffected on the peninsula, which is a popular tourist destination for many Russians.
A Ukrainian presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, cryptically said that the blasts were either caused by a Ukrainian-made long-range weapon or the work of Ukrainian guerrillas operating in Crimea.
A Ukrainian parliament member, Oleksandr Zavitnevich, said the airfield was rendered unusable. He reported on Facebook that it housed fighter jets, tactical reconnaissance aircraft and military transport planes.
Satellite photos from Wednesday issued by Planet Labs PBC showed wreckage in spots on the airfield where the company’s photos a day earlier showed numerous warplanes.
“Official Kyiv has kept mum about it, but unofficially the military acknowledges that it was a Ukrainian strike,” Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said.
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said it couldn’t independently determine what caused the explosions but noted that simultaneous blasts in two places at the base probably rule out an accidental fire but not sabotage or a missile attack.
“The Kremlin has little incentive to accuse Ukraine of conducting strikes that caused the damage since such strikes would demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Russian air defence systems,” it said.
The base on the Black Sea peninsula, which dangles off southern Ukraine, is at least 200 kilometres from the closest Ukrainian position — out of the range of the missiles supplied by the U.S. for use in High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers.
The Current19:25Fears of catastrophe at Ukrainian nuclear plant under Russia control