Berlin | Storming the set of a pro-Kremlin TV news item with a gesture against the war in Ukraine, journalist Marina Ovsiannikova expected to meet the wrath of Russian power, but not that of her opponents.
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Almost three months after attracting global attention, the 43-year-old pro is living outside of Russia amid fears of being jailed there.
But her position is not very comfortable in Europe, where she is the target of criticism despite the backing of several governments, as her critics still suspect her of being linked to the Kremlin propaganda machine.
“I’m caught in the middle of this information war,” Ms Ovsiannikova told AFP when invited to Berlin by the Frauenforum, a platform on the role of women in business and society.
“It’s a really absurd situation because Russia wants to strip me of my citizenship and put me in prison and the Ukrainian authorities want to ban me from entering the country (…) because I’m a former propagandist,” describes this elegant native Wife to a Russian mother and a Ukrainian father.
In mid-March, days after the start of the Russian invasion, she burst live during the country’s most-watched newscast on the Pervy Kanal channel with a sign reading “No War.”
Detained and interrogated for 14 hours, and then fined 30,000 rubles ($600), she still faces criminal prosecution, which can result in lengthy prison terms, under the terms of a recently enacted law outlawing any “false information” suppressed by the Russian army.
“Absolute void” of information
The images of his intervention went around the world and his bravery was celebrated on all sides.
After leaving Channel One, where she was employed, Marina Ovsiannikova got a job as a correspondent for the major German daily The world.
But the experience was cut short: it “just didn’t fit in terms of concrete collaboration and day-to-day work,” an editorial source told AFP.
The Russian was unsuccessful when she traveled to Ukraine in early June to report as a freelance journalist.
“I wanted to show the Russians what’s really going on in Bucha… explain to the Russians what’s really going on in Ukraine, maybe interview (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy,” she explains.
“The Russians are currently living in an absolute vacuum. They have no information because all independent media in Russia are blocked now, (there is) only information from the Kremlin”.
irony as escape
But she was greeted with suspicion, even hostility, in the country shattered by Russian troops.
“Ukrainians don’t believe in his sudden turnaround,” Ukrainian journalist Olga Tokariuk, an adviser to the Center for European Policy Analysis, wrote on Twitter.
In her opinion, the frontline reporting of Ms Ovsiannikova, which was then published on social media, is “manipulative, false and condescending”.
But the Russian journalist believes her own story allows her to “understand how Ukrainian women and children feel now.”
She notably spent part of her childhood in Grozny, the capital of the separatist province of Chechnya, where her home had been destroyed during bombing by the Russian army during the first war in Chechnya (1994-1996).
It will probably take a while “until the Ukrainians begin to understand that there are also good Russians who are protesting against the war,” she says.
Her future is unclear, she says, but her situation is “much better than that of Ukrainians or refugees.”
The journalist still wants to “destroy the Kremlin’s propaganda machine,” but also wants to see his two children, aged 11 and 17, who stayed in Russia with her ex-husband.
“My friends ask me, ‘Do you prefer poison or a car crash?'” she jokes, adding that “I can’t possibly live my situation without humor.”