Four trials and one arrest. Since her return to Russia, journalist Marina Ovsiannikova has been intimidated by power and redoubled her efforts, in the face of criticism, to prove the sincerity of her opposition to the conflict in Ukraine.
On March 14, he interrupted live the news of the first Russian channel he worked for, Pervy Kanal, with a banner against the offensive launched by Vladimir Putin. A gesture that went around the world and changed his life.
After that blow, he announced that he would stay in Russia, but eventually moved and worked with Die Welt in Germany for three months.
In her absence, her ex-husband, an employee of the pro-Kremlin RT network, took her to court to take custody of their two children and prevent him from taking them abroad.
For this reason, the 44-year-old journalist made the “difficult decision” to return to Russia in early July, she explained to AFP.
“I have decided to play Russian roulette,” she says, dressed in an elegant black dress, sitting on a bench in central Moscow, after dropping her daughter off at a private school for a summer course.
After living comfortably and working for state television for 19 years, he is now one of the last voices in Russia to loudly condemn the conflict in Ukraine.
The other influential critics are in prison, keeping a low profile or have gone into exile.
“I am a combatant, I continue to actively denounce the war, I do not plan to stop, I am not afraid despite the intimidation,” Marina Ovsiannikova cries.
Since his return from exile, he has come to support jailed opponent Ilia Iachin in court, demonstrated near the Kremlin with a banner calling Putin a “murderer,” and regularly posts online denouncing power.
– People “prefer to be silent” –
Despite the risks, he also continues to participate in news programs broadcast by Russian opponents on social media.
Because of her criticism, she was briefly detained by police near her home in mid-July and fined in two trials for statements against the offensive in Ukraine.
On August 8, she will be tried again for having “discredited” the army, without mentioning the trial to retain custody of her children.
In addition, she suffers from the hostility of the Russian and Ukrainian opposition, who accuse her of having been a propagandist for Moscow, and that of the pro-Kremlin, who consider her a traitor to Russia.
Others accuse her of having changed her jacket for opportunism, for her career or to gain international visibility. But Marina Ovsiannikova calmly refutes the accusations.
“For power it is useful to constantly create conspiracy theories against me, people no longer know who to believe,” he says, while calling to “unite and support” all opponents of the Kremlin.
He admits mistakes, yes, he admits having stayed “too long” in his bubble, without “finding the strength” to change jobs. For her, this inaction and indifference, embraced by many Russians, is a form of “self-preservation” fueled by fear.
“Our people are really very scared. Even those who understand all the absurdity and horror that is happening prefer to remain silent,” he maintains, believing that the Russians criticize the power “in their kitchen”, sheltered from prying ears, as during the USSR.
– “Unenviable” situation –
Ovsiannikova also recalls that she lives in an “unenviable” situation, threatened from all sides and facing a “family war”.
But he stresses that their problems are “insignificant” compared to the suffering of the Ukrainians.
It remains to be seen whether his activism will earn him a court case for “spreading false information” about the military, a crime punishable by 15 years in prison. Dozens of people have already been prosecuted in Russia for this reason.
At this point, the journalist is torn between hope and fatalism. According to her, the power may not go ahead to avoid giving more echo to her famous protest on her television, and because she says she has “solid international support”.
But his face twists when asked whether or not he will leave Russia in the event of criminal charges. “It’s hard to say, I live from day to day”, she replies after hesitating.
“We can find a law to punish each person,” adds Marina Ovsiannikova, taking up a sinister aphorism that dates back to Stalinist terror. “If they make this decision, they will arrest me on the day, it will take them a second.”