Gonzalo Lira Case: Why Does US Keep Silent on Ukrainian Spooks Intimidating American Journo?
17:32 GMT 23.04.2022 (Updated: 20:47 GMT 26.04.2022)
Chilean-American political commentator and journalist Gonzalo Ángel Quintilio Lira López, who inexplicably disappeared on 15 April in Kharkov, came on air on 22 April, revealing that he had been grabbed by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), with his computer and phone being taken from him.
"I just want to say that I'm fine physically, I am a little rattled, I was picked up by the SBU on Friday, 15 April, little after 1:00 pm local time (GMT+3)", Lira told internet commentator Alex Christoforou on 22 April. The journalist still appears to be under house arrest despite not having been charged with a crime.
Lira, 54, an American novelist and filmmaker, resided in Kharkov when the Russian special operation began. He covered the conflict on YouTube, Telegram, and Twitter, subjecting the Kiev authorities to sharp criticism. When he vanished, netizens suggested that he could have been arrested by the SBU.
They drew attention to the journalist's 22 March YouTube video in which he said
: "If ever you don't hear from me for 12 hours during this conflict, if it's 12 hours or more, assume that I have been picked up by the SBU".
Lira's warning came on the heels of a Daily Beast article
vilifying him as a "pro-Putin shill in Ukraine". The media outlet appeared to downplay Lira's role as a journalist, branding him, in particular, a "sleazy American dating coach" and accusing him of disseminating "wild claims".
One of these "wild claims", according to The Daily Beast, was the Ukrainian Army's tactics of using people as human shields
, something which has been repeatedly confirmed by civilians in the conflict zone
Yet another story by Lira, labelled by the Daily Beast as a "conspiracy theory", was the issue of American bioweapons labs and research in Ukraine
. However, it was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland who told US senators on 8 March that "bioresearch facilities" in Ukraine actually exist
. The US-Ukrainian biological programmes were described in documents obtained and shared by the Russian Ministry of Defence. Even the Daily Mail admitted on 25 March that Metabiota, a US Department of Defence contractor, indeed worked in Ukraine, specialising in research on pandemic-causing diseases
"that could be used as bioweapons".
On 22 March, Lira lambasted The Daily Beast for "trying to get [him] killed" in Ukraine by disclosing his whereabouts amid the military conflict, slandering and vilifying him. He cited instances of Ukrainian journalists, mayors, and even members of the Ukrainian parliament being intimidated, tortured, and silenced for criticising the "Kiev regime" following the beginning of the special operation.
Washington's Silence on Lira's Disappearance
Five days after Lira went missing, Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector and WMD whistleblower, raised the red flag on social media lambasting the West for neglecting the journalist's disappearance:
"When reports emerged that Gonzo Lira, a Chilean [-American] social media 'influencer' who resided in Kharkov, Ukraine, and who published online content critical of the Ukrainian government, was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the Kraken Unit, part of the Azov battalion affiliated with the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), the West is silent", Ritter wrote on Telegram.
The former UN weapons inspector suggested that if Gonzalo Lira had worked for The New York Times and went missing in an area under Russian control, it would have made front page news and the US government would have launched an inquiry.
The Chilean Foreign Ministry told Sputnik on 21 April that it was investigating the whereabouts of its national
. For their part, the US authorities and mainstream media kept silent on the Lira case.
"The fact that Mr. Lira has American citizenship in addition to being a Chilean national has been really overlooked in this worrisome situation", says US independent journalist Max Parry. "Many have been rightly critical of the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its negligence but what about here in the United States? After all, he was born and raised in California. Discussion of his unknown whereabouts has been all over social media networks yet the Western media has been deliberately tight-lipped and refuses to even touch the story".
Parry does not rule out that Washington was well aware that Lira was detained by the SBU. Furthermore, "it is entirely within the realm of possibility and even quite likely the US colluded with the Ukrainian security services", according to the American journalist.
"In fact, I find it very hard to believe the SBU would not have done so without the green light from Washington to take an American citizen journalist in custody", says Parry. "This also has been the one thing that prevented any further harm from coming to him as well since his disappearance went viral and was all over social media networks. Nevertheless, the intent was clearly to intimidate him in retaliation for his courageous on the ground reporting getting the truth out to the Western public".
The American journalist highlights that Lira's apprehension was "just one of many instances of the comprador Zelensky government using strong-arm tactics against domestic activists, journalists, and political dissidents especially since the escalation of the conflict in February". However, now this has been extended to a Western journalist, which has set a very disturbing precedent, Parry warns.
What's more, Lira's detention by the SBU coincided with a London court approving Julian Assange's extradition to the US
, which makes the hypocrisy of the Western authorities and media even more apparent, Parry notes.
"That the West preaches so much about human rights and freedom of the press to the rest of the world while silencing its own journalists for the crime of publishing and exposing US war crimes makes it that much more intolerable", the US journalist stresses.