When she burst onto the set of a pro-Kremlin television news brandishing a sign against the war in Ukraine, journalist Marina Ovsiannikova expected to be met with the wrath of Russian power, but not that of her opponents.

• Read also: Moscow repays dollar debts in rubles via a new system

• Read also: More than 150 cultural sites damaged or destroyed

• Read also: The G7 will make “concrete proposals” to “increase the pressure on Russia”

Almost three months after garnering global attention, the 43-year-old professional is living outside Russia, in fear of being thrown into prison there.


But her position is not very comfortable in Europe where, despite the support of several governments, she is the target of criticism, her detractors suspecting her of still being linked to the Kremlin propaganda machine.

“I’m caught in the middle of this information war,” Ms. Ovsiannikova told AFP while in Berlin where she was invited by the Women’s Forum, a platform on the role of women in the economy and society.

“It’s a really absurd situation because Russia wants to deprive me of my citizenship and put me in prison and the Ukrainian authorities want to ban me from entering the country (…) because I am a former propagandist” , describes this elegant woman born to a Russian mother and a Ukrainian father.


In mid-March, days after the launch of the Russian invasion, she burst live during the country’s most-watched newscast, on the Pervy Kanal channel, with a sign proclaiming “No War.”

Detained and interrogated for 14 hours then sentenced to pay a fine of 30,000 rubles (525 euros), she still faces criminal proceedings punishable by heavy prison sentences, under the terms of a recent law repressing any “false information” on the Russian army.

“Absolute void” of information

The images of his intervention had gone around the world and his bravery was hailed from all sides.

After leaving Channel One, which employed her, Marina Ovsiannikova landed a job as a correspondent for the major German daily Die Welt.

But the experience was cut short: it “simply did not suit in terms of concrete collaboration and day-to-day work”, an editorial source told AFP.

The Russian was no more successful when she traveled to Ukraine in early June to report as a freelance journalist.

“I wanted to show the Russians what’s really going on in Bucha… explain to the Russians what’s really going on in Ukraine, maybe interview (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky,” she explains.

“The Russians are currently living in an absolute vacuum. They have no information because all independent media in Russia are now blocked, (there is) only information coming from the Kremlin”.

Irony as an escape

But she was greeted with suspicion, even hostility in the country pounded by Russian troops.

“Ukrainians do not believe in his sudden reversal,” Ukrainian journalist Olga Tokariuk, consultant for the Center for European Policy Analysis, wrote on Twitter.

According to her, the reporting done from the front line by Ms Ovsiannikova and then published on social media is “manipulative, incorrect and condescending”.

But the Russian journalist believes that her own story allows her to “understand how Ukrainian women and children are feeling now”.

She notably spent part of her childhood in Grozny, the capital of the separatist province of Chechnya where her house had been destroyed during the bombardments of the Russian army during the first war in Chechnya (1994-1996).

It will probably take time “for the Ukrainians to begin to understand (that there are also) good Russians who are protesting against the war”, she judges.

Her future is unclear, she says, but her situation is “much better than that of Ukrainians or refugees.”

The journalist still wants to “destroy the Kremlin’s propaganda machine”, but also to see his two children, aged 11 and 17, who remained in Russia with her ex-husband.

“My friends ask me: ‘Do you prefer poison or a car accident?'” she quips, adding that “without humor in my situation, I think it’s impossible to live”.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.