The Russian journalist that captured world attention last year when protested live on television against the war in Ukraine described this Friday his “extraordinary” flight to France.
Marina Ovsyannikovawho was facing ten years in jail, fled from russia in October, just before being sentenced.
The former editor of Channel One made front pages around the world in March when he stormed onto the set of the iconic evening news vremya (Time) with a sign that read “Not to the war”.
In his escape he had the help of Reporters Without Bordersbased in France, which used seven different vehicles and crossed the border on footentering a forest at night.
“We had to guide us by the stars and it was a real challenge”, he declared at a press conference at the headquarters of RSF in Paris.
“We hid from the lights of the border guards and the tractors that drove bybut we finally made it and reached the border.”
This 44-year-old woman, mother of two childrenwho had been under house arrest and had to cut an electronic bracelet during his escape, said that he had resisted leaving Russia.
“It was still my countryalthough war criminals have seized power, but they gave me no choice: was it jail or emigration“, he claimed.
The French President, Emmanuel Macronhad offered Ovsyannikova asylum a day after her televised protest and now lives among several safe houses in France with her daughter.
“Of course I fear for my life. Every time I talk to my friends in Russia, they tell me: ‘Which do you prefer, Novichok, pollonium or a car accident?’ he said, referring to the different assassination methods allegedly used by Russian security services.
I fear for my life
Ovsyannikova noted that she had had a very difficult childhood – her family home in Chechnya was destroyed during a previous war there – and that this had motivated her to protest against the invasion of Ukraine.
“I was right in the middle of the propaganda bubble,” he explained. “I looked for a way to pierce this bubble.”
Ovsyannikova faced the criticism from some sectors for having supported state propaganda for years before his protest.
He admitted that it was knowingly complicit for yearsbut that she hid her head in the sand, “taking refuge in the daily life of friends and family”, and that only the “enormous shock” of the war made her spring into action.
After his first television protest, he moved to Germanybut returned after three months and starred in a solo protest near the Kremlinwith a sign that read “Putin is a murderer”which led to his arrest.
Director of RSF, christophe deloirerevealed that she had contacted them shortly before deciding to run away.
“It was an extraordinary escape”, said. “Her escape from him brings to mind the most famous escapes through the Berlin Wall.”
Ovsyannikova said she lives in the hope that one day the Russian leadership will face a war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
“I think this regime is living his last daysbut I don’t know how long this war and this regime will last.
“But it must end with a total victory for Ukraine or there will be no future for Russia,” he said.
(With information from AFP)
The Russian journalist who denounced the invasion of Ukraine live escaped from house arrest and launched another challenge to Putin
The Russian state TV journalist who protested against the invasion of Ukraine and challenged Putin managed to flee the country
The Russian journalist arrested for protesting against the war live once again left a strong message despite police censorship