The Ukrainian military has announced that it has suspended controversial transgender spokesperson Sarah Ashton-Cirillo for allegedly making unapproved statements on social media; however, there have been no updates from the Ukrainians or the Biden administration on the fate of an American citizen journalist currently imprisoned in Ukraine.
Following a row sparked by inquiries initiated by Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH), as reported by Breitbart News, the Command of the Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) announced on Wednesday that Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, an American transgender individual, has been suspended from the role of spokesperson.
On social media, the TDF said: “The statements of (Junior Seargant) Ashton-Cirillo in recent days were not approved by the command of the TDF or the command of the AFU. When conducting military operations against the aggressor, the defense forces of Ukraine strictly observe the norms of international humanitarian law.
“The command of the TDF will conduct an official investigation into the circumstances of these statements. Appropriate decisions would be taken. Sergeant Sarah Ashton-Cirillo will be suspended immediately pending the investigation.”
Following the announcement, a source close to President Volodymyr Zelensky told Breitbart News that Ashton-Cirillo had been appointed to the role without the approval of the president and confirmed the suspension.
It is unclear as to the exact statements Ashton-Cirillo was suspended for. However, as Breitbart News reported, Ohio Republican Sen. J.D. Vance wrote this week to top Biden administration officials demanding information on the American citizen after Ashton-Cirillo posted a video on social media declaring that Ukraine was planning to “hunt down” alleged Russian propagandists.
Following the publication of the contents of the letter by Breitbart, Ashton-Cirillo took to social media again, this time claiming that people who supposedly espouse narratives perceived as being pro-Russian were not entitled to be called journalists, and therefore were undeserving of free speech protections and should be tried as war criminals.
As Breitbart News reported on Tuesday, the U.S. State Department confirmed that the American government is aware that a citizen journalist, known as Gonzalo Lira, is currently in prison in Ukraine. Lira has reportedly been accused by the Ukrainians of having “had a criminal intent aimed at the manufacture, distribution materials containing justification, recognition as legitimate, denial of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, which began in 2014, as well as justification, recognition as legitimate of the temporary occupation of part of Ukraine territory.”
Ashton-Cirillo has publicly admitted to being involved in the prosecution of Lira, who is a dual citizen of the United States and Chile. Last week, the transgender spokesperson claimed to have met with Lira while giving testimony in the case, claiming that the YouTuber is in good mental and physical health. Lira has previously claimed to have been tortured and extorted while in prison after being arrested initially in May.
Following an attempt by Lira to escape the country and seek asylum in Hungary in July after being released on bail, Ashton-Cirillo declared in a video that Lira was a “criminal” and that an “innocent man” would not seek asylum. Lira is reportedly facing between five and eight years in prison, which he claims would represent a death sentence.
In comments provided to Breitbart News, Sen. J.D. Vance remarked on Ashton-Cirillo’s suspension: “No American dollar should flow to someone threatening violence against people for exercising their free speech rights. So I’m glad Ukraine parted ways with this spokesman.
“The fact that Ukraine had such a spokesman to begin with suggests a military too focused on propaganda toward liberals and neoconservatives. I’m sick of the fake tough talk and social media videos.
“I’d like to know whether Ukraine thinks it’s any closer to victory today than a year ago. We know the answer. And it’s why we should he pushing for peace instead of more war.”
Former Trump administration Deputy Director of National Intelligence Cliff Sims told Breitbart: “JD’s election to the senate was the most consequential of the last cycle and this shows exactly why: He’s taking a stand on issues that are otherwise being totally ignored, often even by members of his own party, and getting results.”