Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, an American transgender journalist who became a Ukrainian military spokesperson, spoke on Sunday for the first time about her recent suspension.
Ashton-Cirillo was made spokesperson of the Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (AFU) this summer. However, a message by the TDF posted on X (formerly Twitter) on September 20 announced the suspension of Ashton-Cirillo, citing statements she had made that “were not approved by the command of the TDF or the command of the AFU.”
In a video posted to X, Ashton-Cirillo confirmed she is in fact suspended from her role as a spokesperson and an investigation is underway into the comments that were made.
“I trust the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Ministry of Defense to carry out a full and fair investigation, and I will abide by the results. Until the investigation is complete, I am happily carrying out all the tasks and duties assigned to me by my command,” Ashton-Cirillo said in the video.
Ashton-Cirillo also addressed the suspension in a statement to Newsweek. Her message also reminded others of the ongoing misinformation she said is being spread by Kremlin-backed figures in Russia.
“While we all appreciate the need for a thorough investigation by the Armed Forces of Ukraine and Ministry of Defense into statements attributed to me, we must also remember that the Russian propaganda machine is meant to sow division and chaos in order to hide the truth that Putin is still carrying out war crimes and genocide against the Ukrainian people,” Ashton-Cirillo told Newsweek.
Although the TDF did not provide any additional information about the statements that led to the investigation, Ashton-Cirillo recently drew the attention of Senator J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican, about comments she made regarding people who spread Russia propaganda.
Vance sent a letter to U.S. officials on September 15 that requested information about Ashton-Cirillo, including if she is being “compensated using American resources.” According to the lawmaker’s letter, he was concerned by what he characterized as threats of “physical violence” he said she made about Russian propagandists.
His letter came after Ashton-Cirillo posted a video online days earlier in which she said a “favorite Kremlin propagandist will pay for their crimes.” She also stated all Russian propagandists would be “hunted down” and “justice will be served.”
Ashton-Cirillo came to Ukraine in March 2022 to work as a journalist, but she was inspired to enlist in the Armed Forces of Ukraine after witnessing the war firsthand. She served as a combat medic for a period of time before being moving into the position as the official spokesperson of the TDF.
Despite the backlash and suspension, Ashton-Cirillo said she remains confident and determined to continue fighting for Ukraine.
“Whatever the outcome of my current suspension, one fact remains, all of us continue to fight for complete liberation from the plague that is the Moscow regime and an inevitable return to Ukraine’s legally recognized 1991 borders,” Ashton-Cirillo told Newsweek.
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