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16 Jan, 2024 23:58

MEP demands answers over death of US journalist in Ukraine

Bernhard Zimniok has called for an independent probe into Kiev’s alleged torture and killing of Gonzalo Lira
MEP demands answers over death of US journalist in Ukraine

German MEP Bernhard Zimniok has called for an independent investigation into the death of a US journalist who was imprisoned in Ukraine for his critical coverage of President Vladimir Zelensky’s government, saying the case “vividly” shows that Kiev is out of step with European values.

Speaking during Tuesday’s European Parliament debate on a stalled aid package for Ukraine, Zimniok noted that journalist Gonzalo Lira was allegedly tortured and imprisoned by the Kiev authorities and died after being denied necessary medical care.

Lira, a dual US-Chilean citizen who moved to Ukraine in 2010, had been jailed since May 2023 on accusations that he had justified Moscow’s military operation against Kiev. His family reported last week that he had died in prison after suffering from pneumonia and a collapsed lung. His father claimed that he had been “tortured” in Ukrainian custody and that US officials “did nothing” to help him.

Zimnock told EU lawmakers that an investigation should be carried out under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

A former German army colonel and presently a member of the AfD party, the MEP demanded “an immediate end to any support for this corrupt state.” He made the comments as lawmakers debated an EU proposal to provide €50 billion ($54.6 billion) in additional aid to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. The aid plan is scheduled for another European Council vote on February 1, after it was vetoed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in December.

Zimniok argued that further military aid to Ukraine is ill-advised for numerous reasons. “First, anyone who knows anything can see that Ukraine doesn’t have the slightest chance of winning. In light of this, it would be quite brazen to further overburden our taxpayers.”

Several other EU critics, such as Austrian MEP Harald Vilimsky, spoke out against the aid plan. Vilimsky said Ukraine is a “bottomless barrel” for EU aid, and providing more military support without making any efforts to end the conflict is only fueling “massive corruption” in Kiev and causing more bloodshed.

The US State Department confirmed Lira’s death on Saturday but declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding his incarceration. Gonzalo Lira Sr. told Tucker Carlson in an interview last month that his son may have sealed his fate when he criticized not only Zelensky’s government, but also US President Joe Biden’s administration. His second arrest came in May, shortly after he blasted Biden and US Vice President Kamala Harris.

“Isn’t it odd that four days later, after condemning Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Gonzalo was arrested?” Lira’s father asked. “Why was he not detained earlier? When he was let go the previous year, he continued the same criticism against the war. The USA government, with its silence in the face of this scandalous incident, suggests a degree of complicity, or at least tacit approval, of Gonzalo’s arrest.”