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Transgender American Suspended by Ukrainian Military After Controversial Video

Transgender American Suspended by Ukrainian Military After Controversial Video

Sarah Ashton-Cirillo

Sarah Ashton-Cirillo's comments about hunting down Russian "propagandists" drew a complaint from Republican U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance.

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Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, the transgender American working as spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military, has been suspended over comments she made in a video, seen as threatening violence against Russians, that led to a complaint from Republican U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio.

Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces posted a statement Wednesday on X (formerly Twitter) saying Ashton-Cirillo’s recent comments were not approved by the TDF or the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

“When conducting military operations against the aggressor, the defense forces of Ukraine strictly observe the norms of international humanitarian law,” the message went on. “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.”

Ashton-Cirillo had posted a video last week in which she said, “Next week, the teeth of the Russian devils will gnash ever harder, and their rabid mouths will foam in an uncontrollable frenzy as the world will see a favored Kremlin propagandist pay for their crimes.

“And this puppet of Putin is only the first. Russia’s war criminal propagandists will all be hunted down, and justice will be served as we in Ukraine are led on this mission by faith in God, liberty, and complete liberation.”

Vance, who has a history of being anti-LGBTQ+, sent a letter Friday to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, asking if Ashton-Cirillo was being paid with the U.S. funds, if she was a U.S. citizen, and if there was reason to believe Ukraine was going to commit violence against people believed to be spreading Russian propaganda.

“I worry American resources could be supporting violence or the threat of violence against people for speaking their mind,” he wrote. “Notably, any critic of America’s incoherent policy in Ukraine has been slandered as a propagandist, including multiple presidential candidates and American journalists. While we can debate the merits of these accusations, engaging in protected speech should not invite threats of violence — otherwise, the First Amendment means nothing.”

Vance himself has been critical of U.S. aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia, saying U.S. support could actually extend the conflict.

Ashton-Cirillo went to Ukraine as a reporter in March 2022, shortly after Russia’s military invaded Ukraine, and later enlisted in the Ukrainian armed forces. She became a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military this summer.

She answered Vance in a video saying, “We in the TDF and across Ukraine believe journalists are heroes and have the right to report on Ukraine’s war for liberation without interference.” But certain people, she said, are not journalists but instead “Russian propagandists and war criminals who are spreading lies and pushing false narratives.”

She also implied she was being targeted for being trans. “Too many in Moscow and across the world are still caught up in focusing on the tired trope of gender chaos,” she said in the video.

In an interview with Newsweekbefore her suspension, she said anyone accused of spreading Russian propaganda or committing war crimes would receive a fair trial in Ukrainian and international courts.

“Only the Kremlin propagandists have spoken of extrajudicial killings, since political assassinations and journalist murders are a hallmark of the Putin regime,” she said.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.