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‘I refuse to comply,’ says Russian journalist, days after escaping house arrest

Marina Ovsyannikova, a former Russian state TV journalist who quit after making an on-air protest of Russia's military operation in Ukraine, listens during a courtroom hearing in Moscow on Aug. 11. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

In her first remarks since fleeing pretrial house arrest earlier this week, Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova said she considers herself “completely innocent” and issued a call for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be isolated from society and put on trial.

“Since our state refuses to comply with its own laws, I refuse to comply with the measure of restraint imposed on me in the form of house arrest, and I release myself from it as of September 30, 2022,” Ovsyannikova posted to Telegram from an undisclosed location Wednesday.

“Respected employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service, put such a bracelet on Putin,” she said in a video, referring to the electronic tracking device she has been forced to wear on her ankle by Russian officials. “It is he who must be isolated from society not me, and he should be tried for the genocide of the people of Ukraine and for the fact that he destroys the male population of Russia en masse.”

Ovsyannikova, a former editor on Russian state-owned Channel 1 television, made international headlines earlier this year after bursting onto the set of the channel’s flagship news program holding a poster that read “stop the war.” Her protest was widely hailed as a dangerous act of resistance as Russia moved to crack down on critics and public displays of dissent amid its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian journalist who protested Ukraine war on air escapes house arrest

On Wednesday, Ovsyannikova once again urged Russians not to believe government lies, saying that she had been targeted for simply telling the truth. After Russia’s February invasion, media access was swiftly blocked and Moscow banned what it deemed to be “fake” news of its assault on Ukraine. Russia’s media clampdown has forced many journalists to flee the country.

Russia has fined Ovsyannikova twice for the offense of discrediting its military and in August placed her under a two-month house arrest on charges of spreading fake news about the military, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years.

It remains unclear how she managed to escape, along with her 11-year-old daughter. Ovsyannikova did not respond to calls and text messages from The Washington Post in recent days.

Ovsyannikova’s ex-husband first reported to authorities on Saturday that she was missing, Russian media reported. Igor Ovsyannikov told the pro-Kremlin RT network that he did not know where his ex-wife was, but that his daughter did not have a passport.

Ovsyannikova’s remarks came as Putin signed a document formalizing the annexation of four regions of Ukraine, a breach of international law. Despite the move, Ukrainian troops are making a “fast and powerful advance” in the country’s south and liberating “dozens of settlements” from Russian control, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report.

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