(Bloomberg) -- A Russian court sentenced a journalist who staged an anti-war protest on the country’s top TV news program to 8 1/2 years in prison in absentia on Wednesday.

Marina Ovsyannikova was convicted of spreading knowingly false information about the actions of the Russian Armed Forces, according to a statement posted on the Telegram channel of Moscow’s Basmanny Court. 

Ovsyannikova, 45, gained international attention as a producer at Russia’s state-owned Channel One TV when she interrupted its news program to stage a rare public protest against the war just weeks after President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. The journalist, who later escaped into exile in France, held up a sign during a live broadcast in March last year that said: “They’re lying to you.”

She thanked France and media freedom group Reporters Without Borders for saving her “from 8.5 years in a Russian prison” in a post on X, previously known as Twitter. The Foreign Ministry in Paris also condemned the sentence in a statement on its website.

Other critics of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine have been handed lengthy prison sentences in an escalating crackdown since the war started. 

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