Putin asks why U.S. didn’t investigate what happened to American journalist Gonzalo Lira who died in Ukrainian custody
06/09/2024 // Cassie B. // Views

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Ukraine tortured an American journalist to death and called out the government for failing to investigate what happened to him.

The comments were made during a press briefing in St. Petersburg when Putin was asked about the killing of a French journalist in a missile strike. After saying he would facilitate an investigation, he took the opportunity to chide President Biden for his handling of the death of American journalist Gonzalo Lira.

Putin said: “They tortured an American journalist to death in a Ukrainian prison, and the U.S. is not even asking what happened to him. No one went to the trouble of asking what actually happened.”

Lira had been jailed since May of 2023 in Ukraine after being accused of justifying Russia’s military operations against Kiev. The dual American-Chilean citizen, who had moved to Ukraine in 2010, had a collapsed lung and pneumonia at the time of his death in a Kharkiv hospital. He had previously claimed he was tortured in prison by other inmates, which included beatings, sleep deprivation and other abuses.

Lira criticized Zelensky, Biden and Harris

The 55-year-old, who was born in California, had been a vocal critic of authoritarianism in Ukraine and believed the conflict there was a proxy war the U.S. was waging against Russia. He was arrested on charges of "production and dissemination of materials justifying Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine."

Tucker Carlson and Elon Musk were among those calling for him to be released. Posting on X after his death, Carlson wrote: "Gonzalo Lira was an American citizen, but the Biden administration clearly supported his imprisonment and torture. Several weeks ago we spoke to his father, who predicted his son would be killed."

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Although the U.S. State Department confirmed his death, it did not release any information about his incarceration. His father said that he had been tortured by the Ukrainian government and said American officials “did nothing” to help him. He believes it may be because in addition to criticizing the Zelensky government, he also criticized Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Lira's father claims journalist was tortured and extorted

“I cannot accept the way my son has died. He was tortured, extorted, incommunicado for 8 months and 11 days and the US Embassy did nothing to help my son,” he said in an email, adding, “The responsibility of this tragedy is [with] the dictator Zelensky with the concurrence of a senile American President, Joe Biden. My pain is unbearable. The world must know what is going on in Ukraine with that inhuman dictator Zelensky.”

A handwritten letter by Lira to his sister, which is believed to be his final written correspondence, outlined the neglect he dealt with during his incarceration. He detailed severe edema and double pneumonia, which he said the prison ignored for two months. He added that the swelling in his lungs was so bad that he would pass out due to shortness of breath following “minimal activity, or even just talking for 2 minutes.”

According to Putin, more than 30 Russian journalists have been killed in the combat zone since the conflict began more than two years ago, and they haven’t been given the chance to investigate what happened to these individuals.

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