Musk reacts to death of US journalist in Ukrainian prison
Elon Musk has condemned a lack of action on the part of US officials in the case of an American journalist, Gonzalo Lira, who had been jailed by Kiev and who ultimately died in Ukrainian custody. Authorities there allegedly ignored Lira’s serious health problems for a long time, while he remained behind bars on accusations of justifying Moscow’s military operation against Kiev.
Lira moved to Ukraine and married a local woman in 2010. When long-simmering tensions between Moscow and Kiev turned to military engagement in February 2022, the journalist started actively covering the fighting on social media. He also blamed the development on Kiev and its Western backers, asserting that Ukraine had no chance of winning against Russia.
Lira, who was 55 when he died, had also been criticizing efforts by Western media to portray Ukraine as a “democracy,” pointing to rampant corruption and publishing a list of Zelensky’s opponents who, he claimed, had been “disappeared” by various authorities.
The US State Department confirmed Lira’s death to Russia’s TASS news agency on Friday. He had been in pre-trial detention in Ukraine’s city of Kharkov since May 2023. News website The Grayzone has reported that, since last October, he had severe health problems from pneumonia and a collapsed lung. The Ukrainian authorities only acknowledged the issue on December 22, according to Lira’s own note, cited by the news outlet.
“This is super messed up!” Musk wrote on X (formerly, Twitter) on Saturday, commenting on another post by an entrepreneur and investor, David Sacks, who also slammed US President Joe Biden’s inaction in Lira’s case.
“The Biden administration could have gotten Gonzalo Lira back with a phone call but didn’t lift a finger. Therefore, the Ukrainian government knew it could act with impunity,” Sacks wrote. He also described Lira’s case as evidence that Ukraine is controlled by a “thuggish and unmoored regime.”
Last month Musk questioned the US approach to Kiev, wondering how it was possible that “an American citizen is in prison in Ukraine after we sent over a $100 billion” to support Kiev amid its conflict with Russia. He also said that it was a “serious problem” if a person in Ukraine got jailed for “simply criticizing” President Vladimir Zelensky. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO then called on the Ukrainian president to clarify the situation.
On Saturday, the issue was also addressed by Donald Trump Jr, son of former US President Donald Trump. He decried Lira’s death as a “murder” and questioned the US policy of sending aid to a country where American citizens are killed.
Kiev has insisted that it has rightfully targeted Lira over his activities, with the Security Service of Ukraine repeatedly stating the journalist has been accused of “producing and distributing materials justifying the armed aggression,” as well as disseminating “fakes” about the country’s armed forces.