According to a press release from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), American columnist and YouTuber Gonzalo Lira was arrested at the beginning of May in Ukraine because he allegedly “publicly justified” the Russian invasion of the country. While the press release notes that Lira “has the citizenship of one of the countries of Latin America,” it completely neglects to mention that Lira is also a U.S. citizen, having been born in California.
Lira, a resident of Kharkiv, Ukraine is known for being a critic of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and for having views that are aligned with conservatives in the U.S. The SBU also claims to have confiscated “mobile phones and a computer with evidence of illegal activity” that was in Lira’s possession, yet no evidence has been made publicly available, according to Zerohedge.
Ukraine modified portions of its criminal code at the beginning of the war to now state that the “distribution of materials” that justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the war, or Russia’s actions toward the country since 2014 is criminal. Lira has been charged with such a crime under sections 2 and 3 of Article 436-2 of Ukraine’s criminal code. The code specifically forbids portraying any military dispute “financed by [the] Russian Federation” in Ukraine as an “internal civil conflict.”
By its own law, Ukraine could justify the imprisonment of a NATO official under Article 436-2 who investigated the conflicts that occurred in the Donbas region and killed more than 10,000 people from 2014 to 2020. The Ukrainian government has claimed that those conflicts were financed and armed by Russians. However, the NATO official’s investigation revealed that “there were no deliveries of weapons and military equipment from Russia” and instead indicated that most of the weapons used were smuggled by defecting Ukrainian soldiers.
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Meanwhile, if Lira is convicted on both charges, he could face up to 13 years in prison.
Lira’s detainment is not drawing the same ridicule and attention as that of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. While the Biden administration was outspoken about Gershkovich’s arrest praising him for his “absolute courage” and working to negotiate his release, no such measures have been taken for Lira.
When asked about Lira’s detention in Ukraine, recently appointed State Department spokesman Mathew Miller confirmed that the department was aware that Lira had been detained but offered no additional comments.
While the State Department continues to turn its back on U.S. citizens detained overseas, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) was quick to note that while the U.S. continues to fund Ukraine’s war against Russia and provide arms, munitions, and equipment to Ukrainian forces, Zelenksy’s government has done nothing to stand up for or defend Americans’ freedom of speech in Ukraine.
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