Ukrainian authorities have arrested an American citizen for voicing agreement with Russian actions and criticizing Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
Gonzalo Lira, a YouTuber and columnist, is known for his financial articles published in outlets like Business Insider and ZeroHedge. While his opinions align with a significant portion of the American right, it is important to note that this description does not encompass all of his stances. Lira has been an outspoken critic of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Ukrainian Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) at the beginning of May arrested Gonzalo Lira for his public justification of the Russian invasion, according to a press release.
“The security service gathered an evidence base on a foreign blogger who publicly justified the armed aggression of the RF [Russian Federation] and spread fakes about the war in Ukraine,” the Ukrainian SBU claimed. “The figure is a citizen of one of the Latin American countries, but has lived in Kharkiv for several years.”
“After the full-scale invasion, the blogger was one of the first to support Russian invaders and heroize their war crimes,” the release continued. “He also discredited the top military-political leadership and the Defense Forces of our state.”
“It is documented that in the spring of last year he personally shot provocative videos in which he tried to capture the faces of Ukrainian defenders and insulted them,” the statement added. “It published its stream on two channels of its own in Jutub and Telegram with a total audience of almost 300,000 subscribers.”
The SBU claimed to have seized “mobile phones and a computer with evidence of illegal activity” from Lira’s apartment, but no such evidence has been made public.
“The SBU-initiated examinations confirmed the criminal actions of a foreign blogger,” the statement added.
Although the SBU mentioned Lira’s citizenship in Latin America, they omitted his U.S. citizenship as a California-born individual.
Lira has been charged under sections 2 and 3 of Article 436-2 of Ukraine’s criminal code, which was amended to criminalize the dissemination of materials justifying Russia’s actions in Ukraine since 2014. The law specifically prohibits portraying any military conflict in Ukraine as an “internal civil conflict” financed by the Russian Federation. This law has also been cited to accuse The New York Times and Wired Magazine of violations.
If convicted of both charges, Lira could face up to 13 years in prison.
The State Department has declined to comment on whether or not it will negotiate with Zelensky over Lira’s release.
State Department refuses to say whether it will negotiate with Zelensky for the release of detained U.S. citizen Gonzalo Lira: pic.twitter.com/jTD58XjYnw
— Liam Cosgrove (@cosgrove_iv) May 28, 2023
When asked about the Biden State Department’s awareness of Lira’s arrest and their efforts to secure his release, newly appointed spokesperson Mathew Miller acknowledged their awareness of the matter but provided no further information.
While the arrest of Evan Gershkovich, a WSJ reporter detained in Russia, has garnered significant attention and outcry, American journalists have shown less indignation towards Lira’s arrest.
There have been no public statements from President Biden about Gonzalo Lira, unlike the administration’s advocacy on behalf of Gershkovich.
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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
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