Russian soldiers drastically differ from Ukrainian service members because they are not human, according to an American transgender journalist recently appointed as an official spokesperson for Kiev’s territorial defense forces.
On Saturday, Sarah Ashton-Cirillo posted a 21-second clip on X (formerly Twitter) in which she is seen standing in front of a cardboard cutout of a Russian soldier. Pointing at the figure, the spokesperson asks: “Do you know the difference between us and them?”
While Ukrainians “are fighting for freedom,” Russians “are fighting for tyranny and dictatorship,” Ashton-Cirillo claimed, adding that the most distinctive feature is “pretty simple.” “We are human, and those guys most definitely aren’t,” she said, concluding the speech with the slogan “Glory to Ukraine.”
The video did not sit well with many social media users, with some describing it as “shockingly unpleasant” and “absolutely disgusting.” Another commenter recalled that viewing Russians as non-humans did not end well for Nazi Germany in the 1940s.
On Sunday, Ashton-Cirillo released a separate clip mocking Russian paratroopers as she hung the same figure of the soldier upside down by tying a rope to its ankles. Ashton-Cirillo said she was celebrating Russian Paratroopers’ Day, which falls on August 2.
Ashton-Cirillo, who was born Michael Cirillo and came out as transgender in 2019, traveled to Ukraine in March 2022 shortly after the start of the conflict, first working as a reporter and then enlisting as a combat medic. The journalist now hosts the state-sponsored news program ‘Russia Hates the Truth’, which claims to combat “Russian propaganda.”
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The spokesperson’s remarks come after a string of similar statements by Ukrainian officials. Last week, Aleksey Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, claimed that Russians are “Asians” and that the key difference between them and Ukrainians is “humanity.”
Mikhail Podoliak, an adviser to the chief of President Vladimir Zelensky’s office, said in June that the only plan for Ukraine’s much-hyped counteroffensive was “the maximum killing of Russians.” Moscow has claimed that Ukraine has failed to gain any ground while suffering “catastrophic” losses, estimating them to be more than 43,000 service members since the start of the operation in early June.
Moscow has for years voiced outrage over rampant Russophobia in Ukraine, arguing that Kiev has turned it into a state-sanctioned policy. Ukraine has passed laws severely restricting the use of the Russian language in education, media, and everyday life.