Journalist Who Cried ‘No to War’ on Russian TV Fled to France

From a Wall Street Journal story by Matthew Dalton and Noemie Bisserbe headlined “Journalist Who Cried ‘No to War’ on Russian TV Fled to France”:

PARIS—Marina Ovsyannikova, a Russian journalist who denounced the Ukraine war on a Kremlin-owned television station, has been living in France after being smuggled out of Russia last fall, she said at a press conference Friday in the French capital.

Ms. Ovsyannikova had been living under house arrest in Moscow and fitted with an electronic bracelet. Russian authorities in August had charged her with spreading false information for staging an antiwar protest near the Kremlin the month before.

Ms. Ovsyannikova, appearing in public on Friday after slipping from house arrest in October, said the French group Reporters Without Borders helped exfiltrate her from Russia using seven different vehicles. She also had to cut through her electronic bracelet during her escape.

“Just before the border, something went wrong; our vehicle got stuck in the mud,” she said. “We had to walk in the dark of night and navigate by the stars.”

On March 14, just weeks after the invasion, Ms. Ovsyannikova burst onto the set of the evening news program on Russian state television’s flagship Channel One yelling, “Stop the war, no to war,” and holding a poster that read, in part, “Don’t believe propaganda. They lie to you here,” until the camera cut away.

“All of Russia is in a bubble of propaganda,” Ms. Ovsyannikova said Friday of her protest. “I wanted to pierce that bubble,” she added.

She was immediately detained and the next day fined 30,000 rubles, or roughly $400, for a video she published online explaining her actions.

The protest drew praise from politicians across Europe and the U.S.—and promises of asylum for Ms. Ovsyannikova if she wanted it.

“We are obviously taking steps aimed at offering your colleague our protection at the embassy or an asylum protection,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters at the time.

Ms. Ovsyannikova, a longtime employee for Russian state television, had for years felt what she said was “cognitive dissonance” from both loving her country but disagreeing with its direction, she told The Wall Street Journal in an interview last March.

Ms. Ovsyannikova said Friday, however, that she had been reluctant to leave Russia. “It was still my country, even if war criminals have taken power,” she said at the press conference. “It was either prison or emigration.”

Though she is now outside of Russia Ms. Ovsyannikova said she still fears for her life.

“Each time I speak with my friends in Russia they ask me, ‘What would you prefer, Novichok, polonium or a car crash?’” she said, referring to different methods Russia has allegedly used to assassinate critics.

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