The State Department has refused to say if it’s engaging with the Ukrainian government over American citizen Gonzalo Lira, who was detained by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) due to his political views on the conflict with Russia.
Lira has a popular YouTube channel and a large following on Twitter and Telegram. He is also a writer who has contributed to several media outlets, including Business Insider. Lira was born in California and is a dual citizen of the US and Chile and had been living in Kharkiv, Ukraine, throughout the war.
Lira is a critic of the Ukrainian government and was arrested by the SBU on charges of justifying the Russian invasion. “After the start of the full-scale invasion, the blogger was one of the first to support the Russian invaders and glorify their war crimes,” the SBU said in a press release referring to Lira.
The SBU also accused Lira of “discrediting the top military and political leadership and the Defense Forces of our state.” He was charged under sections 2 and 3 of Article 436-2 of Ukraine’s criminal code, which outlaws the “distribution of materials” that justify Russia’s actions going back to 2014.
Epoch Times reporter Liam Cosgrove asked State Department spokesman Matthew Miller if the administration was aware of Lira’s detainment and how the US feels about Ukraine arresting an American for speech.
“So I will say in general that we’re aware of the report. We obviously support the exercise of freedom of speech anywhere in the world, and I’ll leave it at that,” Miller said.
When asked if the administration was working to secure Lira’s release, Miller said, “I’m going to leave my comments where I just left them.”
Cosgrove also asked Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) about Lira’s detainment. Lieu said that he wasn’t aware of the case but said US citizens should “have the ability to express their thoughts and views” and that he would look into the arrest.
Responding to the news, Greene told Cosgrove: “America is providing weapons, equipment for the defense of their country, but the Ukrainian government is not going to defend any American’s freedom of speech, and that’s a real problem.”
Lira’s arrest received virtually no attention in Western media. One of the few outlets to cover it was the Daily Beast, which smeared the American instead of questioning the charges. According to the Beast, Lira is facing five to eight years in prison.