Russian journalist who protested Ukraine war on state TV is charged

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 ’round the world:

Journalist with anti-war sign interrupts Russian state newscast

A TV editor interrupted the main news program on Russia’s state TV Channel One, holding up a sign behind the studio presenter. The sign, in English and Russian, read: ‘NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe advertising. They are lying to you here.’

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 firing 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 firing the military in a critical Facebook post and comments she made at a court opposition where 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 firing the armed forces.

Ukraine mocks Russian explanation of Crimea explosion

In the latest developments in the invasion, 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.

Large clouds of smoke are shown in the distance across a field and body of water.
Smoke rises after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, Crimea, on Wednesday, in this still image obtained by Reuters. (Reuters)

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 does not 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.

The Current19:25Fears of catastrophe at Ukrainian nuclear plant under Russia control

In Ukraine, a nuclear plant under Russian occupation has the international community warning of potential catastrophe. Guest host Michelle Shephard discusses the risks with Philip Crowther, international affiliate correspondent for the Associated Press; and Mariana Budjeryn, the Ukrainian nuclear expert at Harvard’s Belfer Center.

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 guerrillas operating in Crimea.

The base on the Black Sea peninsula, which dangles off southern Ukraine, is at least 200 kilometers from the closest Ukrainian position — out of the range of the missiles supplied by the US for use in High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers.

In other developments, Russian forces shelled areas across Ukraine on Tuesday night into Wednesday, including the central region of Dnipropetrovsk, where 13 people were killed, according to the region’s governor, Valentyn Reznichenko.

Reznichenko said the Russians fired at the city of Marganets and a nearby village. Dozens of residential buildings, two schools and several administrative buildings were damaged.

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