Lira, a prolific and controversial online personality, is accused of creating and disseminating materials that justify Putin’s armed aggression against Ukraine. He is facing the possibility of being imprisoned for five to eight years.
Lira, a former online dating coach, was arrested on May 1 at his residence in Kharkiv, according to two sources familiar with the investigation. Ukrainian authorities claim that the search of his home revealed additional evidence of his unlawful activities, including data found on his cell phone and his computer.
The SBU announced on Friday that an unnamed foreign blogger had been arrested and the Kharkiv prosecutor’s office posted a blurred video of Lira on its YouTube channel. The Daily Beast has obtained a longer version of the footage, which shows the arrest and raid on his home.
Lira was charged under article 436-2 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code, parts 2 and 3, pertaining to wartime propaganda. He will remain in jail as the case moves forward, and an active investigation is still underway.
An SBU spokesperson said 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... Additionally, in his comments he disputed the details of Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian cities and mass murders of civilians.”
Lira is a blogger, who made a transition from offering sleazy “dating coach” advice to men as “Coach Red Pill,” to providing propaganda fodder for the Russian state media that eagerly picked up and disseminated his multiple dispatches from Ukraine. In his videos, Lira insulted the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, and described Ukrainians defending their land from Russian invaders as “armed criminals.” Ukrainian authorities allege that Lira filmed Ukrainian soldiers, making a specific effort to capture their likeness and attempting to discredit their military service.
Lira also charted his efforts to follow American reporters covering the conflict in Ukraine, describing them as “system pig journalists” and revealing their whereabouts in specific hotels. Lira commented: “They’re here to report how they led Ukraine up the garden path and now Ukraine is f’d! These are the people pushing the narrative, so you can see them. See them real good!”
American journalist Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, who is currently serving in Ukraine’s Armed Forces, said she is slated to be one of the witnesses in the criminal case against Lira. She told The Daily Beast, “This justice has been a long time coming. Obviously, when I was accused by Maria Zakharova and the Russian MFA of being complicit in Gonzalo Lira's disappearance last year, it set off a lynch mob of his supporters accusing me of murder. His arrest this week shows that Ukrainian officials don’t bow to popular pressure when a factual investigation leads to the truth.”
Ashton-Cirillo added, “I’ve already given my sworn statement to SBU about Gonzalo Lira several months ago and expect to be called as a witness in his prosecution.”
Lira blamed Ukraine for being attacked by Russia, describing the ongoing war as “one of the most brilliant invasions in military history.” He defended Putin’s motives, claiming that the Russians were taking special pains to avoid damaging civilian infrastructure or harming civilians and predicting that Ukraine would flourish under Russia’s control.
He disseminated a number of debunked conspiracy theories, including Russian allegations of locating “American bioweapons labs” in Ukraine. Sources involved in the investigation say that Lira’s appearance on The Donbass Devushka’s show prompted additional scrutiny of Lira’s activities, which were being monitored after his questioning and release last year.
The online personality posted a slew of videos and commentary on YouTube, Telegram, and Twitter, attempting to pin the blame on Ukraine for the strikes conducted by the Russian Federation. Russian state TV touted his video blogs as valuable reporting by an unbiased observer, featuring them on various shows and praising his efforts. Lira’s YouTube and Telegram following exceeded a combined 300,000 subscribers.