The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) arrested Gonzalo Lira, a US-Chilean national residing in Kharkiv, on suspicions of harbouring pro-Russian sentiments. This marks the second time Lira has been apprehended by the SBU. Lira, an author and filmmaker who relocated to Kharkiv years ago and married a Ukrainian, was initially detained in April 2022 but was released after a week without charges. He was subsequently instructed not to leave the city and prohibited from discussing his arrest.
As reported by Ukrainian media, the SBU's statement accuses Lira of publicly justifying Russia's armed aggression, denying or glorifying supposed Russian war crimes, and undermining Ukraine's top military and political leadership and Defence Forces.
On May 5, the SBU website published a statement in Ukrainian titled "SBU detained a foreign blogger in Kharkiv who denied the crimes of the Russian Federation and insulted Ukrainian defenders." The statement alleges that Lira was among the first to support Russian invaders and glorify their war crimes. It also accuses him of discrediting Ukraine's military-political leadership and Defense Forces. The SBU claims that Lira filmed provocative videos featuring Ukrainian defenders and insulted them.
Lira disseminated his "streams" on his YouTube and Telegram channels, amassing nearly 300,000 subscribers. He also denied Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian cities and the mass murder of civilians by Russian forces. The SBU has notified Lira of suspicion under parts 2 and 3 of Article 436-2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (manufacturing and distributing materials containing justification of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, committed repeatedly).
In March 2022, Ukraine's parliament enacted 14 laws to counter Russian aggression, including two that modify legislation on information activity. These laws prohibit mass media from justifying or legitimising the denial of Russia's armed aggression in Ukraine and the occupation of its territories. They also forbid the glorification of individuals involved in the aggression or administration of occupied areas.
The Ukrainian Criminal Code now contains Article 435-1, which establishes liability for threatening or insulting military personnel and their families, and Article 436-2, which pertains to the justification or denial of Russian military aggression, the occupation of Ukrainian territories, and the glorification of those involved in the aggression or occupation. Penalties for these offences range from arrest for up to 6 months to imprisonment for up to 8 years, depending on the circumstances.
The SBU filmed Lira's arrest, during which heavily armed agents were involved. All participants' faces, except Lira's, were blurred out. A close-up of a smartphone displaying an image of Lira's children as a screensaver was also left un-blurred. Lira is currently detained on suspicion of producing and disseminating materials justifying the Russian Federation's armed aggression against Ukraine. The edited video shows heavily armed special forces knocking on Lira's door and aiming a machine gun at the 55-year-old Lira, who opens the door in his pyjamas. The metal soundtrack from Override Spedup fades down enough to hear the words of a special forces member telling Lira while tapping his arm: "Welcome to Ukraine."
While it is true that Lira has criticised the Zelensky regime and the eight-year-long shelling of Donbas residents by Kyiv, he has not participated in any activities other than exercising his right to free speech as a citizen and respected journalist. Whether or not we agree with Lira's opinions, freedom of speech must not be restricted, especially during times of conflict. These are the values we claim to be defending.
Ukraine’s recent implementation of laws criminalising dissent, banning opposition political parties, nationalising the media, and even persecuting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for maintaining canonical communion with Moscow has raised concerns among free speech advocates. These actions have been criticised for undermining democratic values and creating a chilling effect on freedom of expression.
The detainment of Gonzalo Lira serves as a stark reminder of the delicate balance between national security and individual liberties, especially during times of conflict. It also raises questions about the Zelensky administration's dedication to democratic principles and the obligation of its Western supporters to address these concerns. As the situation in Ukraine continues to unfold, it is crucial for the international community to remain vigilant in advocating for the protection of freedom of speech and other fundamental rights, while holding governments accountable for their actions.
Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, Western media and governments have systematically overlooked or even suppressed news and information about any undemocratic, criminal, or corrupt activities or even war crimes committed by the Ukrainian side of the conflict, while emphasising the same from the Russian side.
Gonzalo Lira is a Chilean-American writer, filmmaker, and financial analyst. Born on November 29, 1972, in Santiago, Chile, he spent much of his life in the United States. He is known for his work as a novelist, screenwriter, and director, as well as his contributions to the financial sector, particularly in economics and investment strategy.
Lira has authored several novels, such as "Counterparts," "Acrobat," and "Gegenspieler." He maintains a presence on YouTube, where he shares his insights on politics and social issues. He is also a regular guest on the acclaimed "Mother of All Talk Shows (MOATS)" hosted by George Galloway.
Lira is recognised for his controversial and outspoken style, which has both attracted and repelled various audiences. Despite the polarising nature of his opinions, he has developed a loyal following of people who appreciate his candour and expertise. Lira is active on Twitter, YouTube, and Telegram and has over 300,000 followers.
For the truth about the Zelensky regime, Google these names:— Gonzalo Lira (@GonzaloLira1968) April 22, 2022
Mikhail & Aleksander Kononovich
Once again: If you haven’t heard from me in 12 hours or more, put my name on this list.
His last tweet on April 22 mentioned the names of several Ukrainian dissidents who have been killed or arrested by the Kyiv regime. The list includes Volodymyr Struk, a Ukrainian politician who was abducted and killed in March 2022 during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and Denis Kireev, a Ukrainian official executed in the street shortly after attending the first round of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine in Belarus.