American citizen Gonzalo Lira dies from neglect in Ukrainian prison

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Gonzalo Lira, a prominent commentator on the Russia-Ukraine war imprisoned in Ukraine for speech critical of the country’s government, has died after weeks of medical neglect by Ukrainian authorities.

Chilean-American war commentator Gonzalo Lira died shortly before noon on January, 11, 2024 at a hospital in Kharkiv, where he had been imprisoned for eight months since he was accused of justifying Russian war efforts in Ukraine.

Lira came to prominence in 2022 when he emerged as a critical voice in an increasingly dictatorial Ukraine. His arrest in May 2023 on charges of “production and dissemination of materials justifying Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine” helped to galvanize domestic opposition to US funding for the war and led to calls for his release by tech baron Elon Musk and American political commentator Tucker Carlson.

A note written by Lira and provided by his father to The Grayzone indicates his death came after a nearly three-month battle with pneumonia, a condition which was apparently ignored by his Ukrainian jailers until just weeks before his death. Lira’s death was revealed by his father, Gonzalo Lira, Sr., who had spent weeks pleading with the American embassy to intervene in his son’s medical emergency.

Emails reviewed by The Grayzone show that after learning of his son’s illness, the senior Lira urged the embassy to intervene on January 3. In a message to US officials, he noted that Ukrainian authorities appeared to make an effort to conceal information about Lira Jr.’s health from his family and legal representatives. “The medical warden in the pre-trial jail in Kharkiv is not giving information as to the state of his health,” he wrote, concluding: “It has been 12 days since I knew his state.”

The following day, Lira Jr. was finally brought to the hospital and allowed to see his lawyer. The defense attorney left the meeting with a hand-written note from Lira explaining his situation, which is believed to be his final written correspondence.

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The letter reads: “I have had double pneumonia (both lungs) as well as pneumothorax and a very severe case of edema (swelling of the body). All this started in mid-October, but was ignored by the prison. They only admitted I had pneumonia at a Dec. 22 hearing. I am about to have a procedure to reduce the edema pressure in my lungs, which is causing me extreme shortness of breath, to the point of passing out after minimal activity, or even just talking for 2 minutes.”

Unconvinced that his son would receive proper medical care in a Ukrainian hospital, Gonzalo Lira, Sr. continued to plead with the embassy to monitor the situation. The next day, he wrote to them again: “I need the Embassy to keep in close touch while he is in the hospital and ensure that his health is progressing while in the hospital. You should also contact the Doctor in charge of Gonzalo while in the hospital and verify his recuperation.”

But his efforts proved fruitless. A week later, Lira Sr.’s worst fears were confirmed when he received word that his son had died. He now blames Washington and Kiev for his death.

“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,” Lira Sr. stated in an email announcing the news.

“The responsibility of this tragedy is [with] the dictator Zelensky with the concurrence of a senile American President, Joe Biden,” he wrote, adding: “My pain is unbearable. The world must know what is going on in Ukraine with that inhuman dictator Zelensky.”

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As the world’s attention shifts from the Western proxy war in Ukraine, Lira Sr. joins the hundreds of thousands of fathers now grieving the deaths of their sons. Unlike most of them, his son did not die on a battlefield, but in prison for condemning the war that doomed so many to an ignominious fate.

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