Elon Musk Urges Biden and Zelensky to Address Detention of US-Chilean Journalist in Ukraine

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Elon Musk has reached out to both US President Joe Biden and his Ukrainian counterpart, Vladimir Zelensky, regarding the status of Gonzalo Lira, a US-Chilean journalist and critic of the Kiev government. Lira has been detained in Ukraine since the summer, prompting Musk’s engagement on the matter.

On Saturday, US political commenter Tucker Carlson published an interview on X (formerly Twitter) with Lira’s father, who said that his son is currently awaiting trial in Ukraine “because he was exercising his right of freedom of speech.”

The US embassy staff has allegedly been unhelpful in assisting the American citizen who is being held captive, according to Gonzalo Lira Senior. The detainee is being represented by a Ukrainian attorney who has been appointed by the court, but who lacks proficiency in English.

Musk expressed his bewilderment in relation to the interview, questioning the plausibility of an American citizen being incarcerated in Ukraine despite the significant financial assistance provided to Kiev, amounting to over $100 billion, during its confrontation with Russia.

“Is there more to this story than simply criticizing Zelensky? If that’s all it is, then we have serious problem here,” the SpaceX and Tesla CEO posted on X.

Carlson responded to the message by saying that the “crime” committed by Lira, who is an author of several novels and a filmmaker with Hollywood experience, was “saying unapproved things.”

On Sunday, Musk also addressed the issue on his own account, writing, “What is the status of this American journalist, Joe Biden?”

The post included a link to Lira’s last post on X before his third arrest by Ukrainian authorities in early August. In his message, the journalist said that he was about to cross from Ukraine into Hungary in search of political asylum. “Either I’ll cross the border and make it to safety, or I’ll be disappeared by the Kiev regime,” he warned his followers.

A spokesperson for the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) verified the detainment of Lira when questioned by Strana.ua news outlet. The journalist is being held in Kharkov, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and is expected to appear in court on December 12 and 21.

According to the spokesman, Lira violated Ukrainian law as he “systematically justified” Russia’s actions in Ukraine and “disseminated pro-Russian views on his social media accounts.” In his videos he “also claimed that the Ukrainian Armed Forces were shelling their own territory, while a neo-Nazi regime reigned in Ukraine,” the spokesman stated.

Lira, who had been living in Kharkov since the mid-2010s, was actively covering Russia’s military operation in the country from its very start in February 2022. He said that it was a tragedy for Ukraine and its people, whom he loved, but stressed that the conflict had been provoked by the Zelensky government and its Western backers. Among other things, the journalist argued that Ukraine had no chance of winning against Russia and predicted the failure of the sanctions against Moscow.

He also decried attempts by Western media to portray Ukraine as a democracy, speaking about corruption in the government and publishing a list of Zelensky’s opponents who, he claimed, had been “disappeared” by the Kiev authorities.

Lira was first arrested by the SBU in April 2022 but released without charges a week later as the story made international headlines.

The 55-year-old continued his reporting and, in May, was again taken into custody and accused of “producing and distributing materials justifying the armed aggression” by Russia agianst Ukraine.

On August 1, the journalist briefly reemerged on social media, posting several videos in which he said that he had been released on bail and was trying to flee to neighboring Hungary in order to avoid a lengthy prison term. He hasn’t been heard from since then.

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