Ukraine has appointed transgender journalist Sarah Ashton-Cirillo to oversee the military’s English-language propaganda operations, according to local outlet Strana. Ashton-Cirillo, who publicly came out as transgender in 2019, hosts the state-sponsored news program ‘Russia Hates the Truth’, which aims to counter Russian propaganda and disinformation. The program is an official project of the Ukrainian Defense Forces.
In a recent episode of ‘Russia Hates the Truth’, Ashton-Cirillo discussed the drone attacks in Moscow, describing them as the culmination of a “prophecy” by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. They also asserted that Russia is defenseless, especially within its borders. The clip from the program was shared by Strana on Tuesday.
Ashton-Cirillo, who enlisted as a combat medic in the Ukrainian military last year, also hosts another program called ‘Ukraine in the Know’. This program is described as the “official English language news show of the territorial defense forces”. After sustaining injuries during the battle of Bakhmut in February, Ashton-Cirillo was sent to the Territorial Defense Forces’ headquarters in Kiev, where they were tasked with overseeing English language media projects.
Before taking up the position, Ashton-Cirillo returned to the US to advocate for continued funding for the Ukrainian military. The US has pledged $46.6 billion to Ukraine’s armed forces, making up more than half of the $76.8 billion in aid sent to the country since the start of Russia’s military operation.
While Ukraine claims to value free speech, Ashton-Cirillo has warned journalists who do not support the Zelensky regime that they should expect a similar fate to that of Gonzalo Lira, a Chilean-American commentator who was arrested in Kharkov and faced a potential sentence of five to eight years in a labor camp.
Ashton-Cirillo has been vocal about the importance of increasing representation and normalizing gender diversity in the conservative Ukrainian society. They believe that the media coverage of their own experiences as a transgender person in the military is helping in this regard. However, they have also stated that they prioritize their work over their gender identity and view themselves as fighting for the freedom of everyone, rather than any specific group.
In an interview with El Pais, Ashton-Cirillo mentioned that there is another transgender soldier in the Ukrainian military who is a native Ukrainian. They have received extensive media coverage and have actively traveled to the frontlines of the Ukraine conflict to support the trans community.
Ukraine’s decision to appoint Ashton-Cirillo to this role reflects the country’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as its determination to counter Russian propaganda through its English-language media operations.