Marina Ovsyannikova: Russian journalist who staged on air protest opens up chaotic escape to Paris

Speaking at a press conference in Paris where she now lives, Marina Ovsyannikova, has spoken of the moments after she held a placard denouncing Vladimir Putin’s invasion last year.

In a sign of dissent within Russia, the journalist held a sign reading “no war, stop the war; don’t believe the propaganda; they’re lying to you here” on the state-run Channel One TV station last March.

Shortly afterwards she was fined 30,000 roubles (£460) for ignoring protest laws. After continuing to protest against the war, she was charged in late August for spreading false information about the army and placed under house arrest.

She was forced to wear an ankle bracelet as she awaited trial which could have resulted in a 10-year prison sentence.

Speaking at the press conference, Ms Ovsyannikova described her “chaotic” escape from house arrest in Moscow last October, across Europe and finally to Paris thanks to the help of Reporters without Borders.

The journalist escaped with her 11-year-old daughter one weekend when she calculated there would be less chance of being pursued.

“We went in so many different directions I don’t even know what direction we took, we changed to seven different vehicles,” she said.

“We had to run out of the car and find our way on foot through fields in the dark night. It was difficult, we didn’t have any phone network, we had to work out where we were by the stars. It felt like an eternity, it was a real ordeal.

“We wandered for several hours before finding the road, hiding from passing vehicles and tractors. I was losing hope.

“I was thinking ‘Why did I do this? Maybe it would have been better to go to prison.’ But thankfully, we reached the border where people were waiting for us.”

Despite fleeing the country, Ms Ovsyannikova said she still fears for her life following the deaths of Russians abroad.

Regardless of her fear, she said she would not stop protesting in order to burst the propaganda bubble within Russia.

“The problem is that all of Russia is in an information bubble of orchestrated propaganda,” she said.

“There are no independent media. To have accurate information, you need a VPN on your mobile phone, and that’s the only way to access real information.”

Christophe Deloire, the secretary general of reporters without Borders likened Ms Ovsyannikova escape to “the most famous crossings of the Berlin Wall”.

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