On Friday, former TV presenter Tucker Carlson, who was fired from Fox News in April, wrote in X that US citizen Gonzalo Lira is allegedly being “tortured” in a Ukrainian prison for “criticizing [President Volodymyr] Zelensky.”
The claim was reposted on the page by businessman and owner of X (formerly Twitter) Elon Musk, who immediately resorted to his default position – it’s a conspiracy: “An American citizen is in prison in Ukraine after we sent over a $100 billion?
“Is there more to this story than simply criticizing Zelensky? If that’s all it is, then we have serious problem here.”
It is worth noting that the US citizen Gonzalo Lira is indeed under arrest in Ukraine. But it’s nothing to do with criticizing Zelensky. It’s for spreading Russian propaganda and supporting Russia's war against Ukraine.
Who is Gonzalo Lira?
A blogger who goes by the pseudonym Coach Red Pill, holds dual citizenship for the United States and Chile.
He started talking about the war in Ukraine in the spring of 2022 on his YouTube channel. Although, according to media reports, before that, he made videos under the name Coach Red Pill, in which he gave dating, life and relationship advice and controversial views about women – that were later removed from the channel.
Lira also tries to portray himself as an expert in economics.
For the past few years Lira, who is married to a Ukrainian woman, has been living in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
He was in Kharkiv when the war started. Since then, he has often posted videos justifying the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, spoke positively about him, writing that Lira: “... honestly and with knowledge of the matter, he talked about the background of the crisis and described the scandal around him, including Nazi atrocities.”
“With his vlogs, he opened the eyes of many in the West.”
Why was he arrested?
In May, Lira was detained in Kharkiv by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).
They reported that “after the start of the full-scale invasion, the blogger was one of the first to support the Russian invaders and glorify their war crimes.”
He also engaged in discrediting the top military-political leadership and the Defense Forces of Ukraine.
“It is documented that in the spring of last year, he shot provocative videos in which he tried to record the faces of Ukrainian defenders and insulted them. He published his ‘streams’ on two of his channels on YouTube and Telegram with a total audience of almost 300,000 subscribers,” the SBU said.
The blogger also denied the facts of Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian cities, and the mass murders of Ukrainian civilians by the Russian troops in Bucha, in the Kyiv region, and other cities.
He also followed the Kremlin’s line that Ukraine is ruled by a neo-Nazi regime.
In addition, it is currently alleged that Lira tried to follow American journalists covering the war in Ukraine and published their addresses, thereby putting them in danger.
Later, the blogger said in his X that “my indictment explicitly states that all I did was discuss publicly known facts about the war—the epitome of free speech in a democracy.”
“But Zelensky’s Ukraine is no democracy—it is a thieving, corrupt, murderous gangster regime pretending to be a polite ‘western’ democracy,” he wrote.
On May 1 of this year, the Kyiv District Court of the city of Kharkiv imposed a preventive measure for Lira in the form of detention until June 29, with bail set at Hr 400,000. His bail was posted for him, so Lira ended up under house arrest.
But in the summer, the blogger was arrested for a second time. “The blogger broke the law and tried to escape from justice. He tried to go abroad on his motorcycle through the checkpoint of Ukraine with Hungary. He was not allowed through at the border, and later, according to the court's decision, the suspect was detained in Transcarpathia and forcibly brought to Kharkiv,” the SBU reported.
Lira announced his intention to escape publicly on X, where he wrote that he planned to apply for political asylum in Hungary.
Currently, Lira is in custody in the Kharkiv pre-trial detention center. The pre-trial investigation in this criminal proceeding has been completed, the court hearings are scheduled for Dec. 12 and 21.
Claims that the blogger has been tortured has been rejected by the SBU.
Why was he mentioned in the US?
Carlson and Musk are two well-known American figures who have actively spoken out against Ukraine.
For example, Musk has repeatedly advocated for Ukraine to give up the eastern parts of the territory that are under Russian occupation because, he argues that, after all, Russia will not leave the region voluntarily.
He also shared a meme mocking Zelensky that showed the Ukrainian president resting between bouts of “begging” for financial and military assistance.
In June, Carlson claimed that Ukraine was responsible for the destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant that month. He also stated that it is the Ukrainian people that want the death of the Russian people, not the other way around.
In March 2022, at the start of the Russian invasion, Carlson, while still at Fox News, endorsed Russian narratives about “US biolabs in Ukraine” and that “the 2014 coup in Ukraine [was] orchestrated by [U.S. diplomat Victoria] Nuland.
He was also repeatedly caught spreading conspiracy theories. In the American media, he is called a "fake populist and genuine racist."
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