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Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH) has written to top Biden administration officials demanding the White House reveal if Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, a transgender individual claiming to be a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military, has ties to American intelligence services and if U.S. funds are currently subsidising Ashton-Cirillo’s apparent role in Ukraine after the personality went viral vowing that Russian “propagandists will be hunted down”.
In a letter, seen by Breitbart News, to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Ohio Senator J.D. Vance has requested any information the U.S. government has on apparently American-born former freelance journalist Sarah Ashton-Cirillo — born Michael John Cirillo — who reportedly became a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military earlier this year.
Appearing before a backdrop featuring the logo for the Territorial Defence of Ukraine (TDF) — a branch of Kyiv’s military — Ashton-Cirillo posted a video message earlier this week on social media declaring that Ukraine will “hunt down” alleged allies of the Kremlin operating in Ukraine as “propagandists”.
“Next week, the teeth of the Russian devils will gnash ever harder, and their rabid mouths will foam an uncontrollable frenzy as the world will see a favourite 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,” the apparent Ukrainian spokesman warned.
The ominous message, which quickly went viral, has sparked many questions about Ashton-Cirillo’s background and alleged current role with the Ukrainian military, including from Sen. Vance.
“In recent days, a video has circulated of an individual who claims to be an English-speaking spokesperson for the Ukrainian military. In the video, this individual, Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, looks directly into the camera and threatens physical violence to anyone who circulates ‘Russian propaganda’,” he wrote in a letter to Sec. Blinken, Sec Austin, and Director Haines.
“A number of reports purport to offer additional information, much of it unconfirmed, regarding Ashton-Cirillo. I’ve seen claims this individual is an American, a former intelligence operative in the United States, and an employee of the Ukrainian government. Others have argued Ashton-Cirillo is pulling an elaborate prank. If so, kudos for the delivery of high quality humor,” Vance continued in an apparent reference to Ashton-Cirillo’s reported direct lobbying of the U.S. Congress for military aid to Ukraine last December.
The Ohio freshman Senator went on to request information from the White House, questioning:
- “Is this individual employed by the Ukrainian military, and do we have reason to believe the are compensated using American resources?
- Is this individual an American citizen? Did they ever serve, in any capacity, American intelligence services?
- Do we have reason to believe Ukrainian forces or intelligence services are planning to commit acts of violence against those who engage in ‘Russian propaganda’?”
The Republican lawmaker went on to express concerns that U.S. taxpayer dollars are supporting violence or the threat of violence against people for speaking their minds, noting that American journalists and even current presidential candidates have been “slandered” as propagandists for Russia.
In comments provided to Breitbart News, Senator Vance said: “If the Ukrainians want to hire weirdos to threaten Americans and others for speaking their mind, I guess that’s their right. They shouldn’t use our tax dollars to do it. And we shouldn’t pretend this is a war for freedom when our supposed ally is threatening violence to anyone who opposes the war.”
‘You’re a Guy… Go to War’ – Fleeing Ukrainian Trans Woman Turned Back at Borderhttps://t.co/iQyKXPuDJ0— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 23, 2022
On Thursday, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh was pressed on whether the American government could confirm if the transgender individual in question is indeed a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military, as Newsweek has reported, to which Signh merely replied: “I cannot confirm that.”
It also remains to be seen exactly which alleged Putin propagandists Ashton-Cirillo warned would be “hunted down”. However, on Tuesday, Ashton-Cirillo claimed to have testified in the case of dual U.S. and Chilean citizen Gonzola Lira, who has been accused by the Zelensky government of spreading pro-Russian propaganda after posting videos from within the country critical of the Ukrainian government.
In another video published this week, the apparent Ukraine spokesperson declared that after Ukraine has retaken lands currently occupied by the Russian military, the Zelensky government will prosecute war criminals involved in Moscow’s invasion, which Ashton-Cirillo claimed would include “propagandists”.
“Russian propagandists are war criminals, they are pushing forward a narrative of genocide, of death, and ultimately of evil that is directed to them by Vladimir Putin and his inner circle. They will not escape justice. You cannot hide behind the title of journalist, you cannot hide behind the title of any fictitious meaning that you assign to it when you work for Vladimir Putin and his terrorist regime,” Ashton-Cirillo said.
On Sunday, Ashton-Cirillo took aim at Maria Vladimirovna Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, warning that she would also face trial as a war criminal. Zakharova has reportedly criticised the apparent Kyiv spokesperson for not producing social media videos in the Ukrainian language, which despite apparently speaking on behalf of the Ukrainian government, Ashton-Cirillo does not seem to be able to speak.
The Kremlin has also said that it intends to raise the issue of Ashton-Cirillo and the “threats” against Russian journalists, Zakharova, and foreign election observers to the United Nations, Russia’s First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Dmitry Polyansky said on Friday.
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Europe’s largest journalist association, has expressed concern about a new Ukrainian law that could arbitrarily censor media in the country. https://t.co/ZBVFEa1dJP— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) January 9, 2023
The spat between Kyiv and Moscow over alleged Putin propagandists comes as the Ukrainian government arrested and detained an active opposition member of the Ukrainian parliament. On Friday, Nestor Shufrych, a member of the Opposition Platform — For Life party, was handed a two-month detention as he faces prosecution for suspected high treason for allegedly spreading the “Kremlin’s false narratives”.
Despite his party condemning Russia’s invasion last year, it was banned — among several other opposition parties — by the Zelensky government under martial law for supposedly being too pro-Russian.
In the last general election, held in 2019, the Opposition Platform — For Life party secured the second most votes behind Zelensky’s Servant of the People party. President Zelensky has yet to confirm if presidential elections will be held on schedule next year, saying last month that elections will only happen if the U.S. and EU provide additional funding to pay for the voting process costs.
Zelensky has used martial law to ban a number of Ukrainian opposition parties, including the largest party after his own. https://t.co/ZSJ82B6PfS— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) March 20, 2022