French police are currently investigating a case of suspected poisoning involving a Russian state TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova who had publicly denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine during a live broadcast and subsequently fell seriously ill.
Marina Ovsyannikova, who managed to escape Russia following her on-air protest and establish herself in France, reported feeling suddenly unwell as she was leaving her apartment in Paris. She was promptly hospitalized after contacting emergency services.
Ovsyannikova expressed her concerns that she might have been deliberately poisoned, according to a statement from the Paris prosecutor’s office. They are actively examining her apartment, and a full investigation is underway.
WHY ELOPED FROM RUSSIA
Before the war in Ukraine, Ovsyannikova worked for Russia’s state television’s Channel One. She gained international attention in March 2022 when she appeared in the background of a live broadcast by another news anchor, holding up a sign that read, “Stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here.” As a consequence, she was fined 30,000 roubles (£460) for her protest but continued to voice her opposition to the war.
During a subsequent solo protest in Moscow, she held a poster that accused Putin of being a murderer and labelled his soldiers as fascists. Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which supported Ovsyannikova in avoiding a prolonged trial in Moscow and the potential of a prison sentence, played a crucial role in helping her settle in Paris.
RSF has provided continuous support to Ovsyannikova since she sought medical assistance, although they have not released further details regarding the incident.
JAILED IN ABSENSE
Earlier this month, a Moscow court sentenced Ovsyannikova in absentia to eight and a half years in prison for disseminating false information about the Russian military. Moscow’s court found journalist Marina Ovsyannikova guilty of “spreading knowingly false information” about the Russian armed forces in connection to her live protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The 45-year-old, who was tried in absentia, vehemently denies the charges, which she regards as “absurd.”
It’s essential to note that Russia’s legislation prohibits referring to the war as an “invasion.” State-controlled news organizations are mandated to term it a “special military operation.” This strict approach has resulted in numerous people being imprisoned or fined for “discrediting” the country’s military, representing what rights groups consider an unprecedented crackdown on dissent during President Vladimir Putin’s tenure.