Written by Ahmed Adel, Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher
Russian soldiers are not human, according to the new official English-language spokesperson for the Ukrainian armed forces, Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, a transgender American with the birth name Michael Cirillo. His words, however, sparked a wave of reactions from netizens, who accused him of being a neo-Nazi for dehumanising Russians.
Pointing at a cardboard cutout of a Russian soldier, the spokesperson, who came out as transgender in 2019, 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 added that the most distinctive feature is “pretty simple.”
“We are human, and those guys most definitely aren’t,” he said, concluding the racist speech with the slogan “Sláva Ukraíni!” (Glory to Ukraine).
In the video posted on his account on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter, Sarah Ashton-Cirillo received much outrage, with others labelling the biological male as a “Nazi” who was using “hate speech.”
“Sounds suspiciously like Untermensch,” wrote one netizen.
“Shockingly unpleasant… vitriol…hate speech…shine the light on racist American sponsored promoters,” another user wrote.
“Transgender nazis. Thats a new one,” another X user noted.
His appointment as spokesman for the Ukrainian Armed Forces became known only in early August. As a new official source, he informs the English-speaking public about the development of the conflict and thus helps disseminate Ukrainian misinformation and propaganda.
This scandalous appointment provoked harsh criticism among Ukrainian public opinion and military personnel. However, Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said, “It is understandable why hostile social media networks,” a reference to Russian internet users, “got so agitated.” Furthermore, according to Maliar, Ashton-Cirillo supposedly has a large audience in the US, with tens of millions of views every month.
The cry “Sláva Ukraíni!,” pronounced by the new spokesman with dreadful pronunciation, became the official motto of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and is often said by its leaders. It is a motto whose origins date back to the 19th century and did not initially contain any supremacist meaning. However, its racist connotations emerged when its current expanded version — Sláva Ukraíni! Gueróyam sláva! — was adopted in 1941 by the most extremist wing of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), a paramilitary group allied with Nazi Germany during its invasion of the Soviet Union and whose members later formed the Nachtigall and Roland battalions of the Ukrainian Legion of the German Army.
It is, therefore, unsurprising that Ashton-Cirillo feels so comfortable in dehumanising Russians since he has fully embraced Ukrainian ideology, which is constructed on nothing more than Russophobia and forcibly Ukrainising minorities by passing laws that restrict the use of Russian and other languages in education, media, and everyday life, with repercussions ranging from fines to even death.
Although Ashton-Cirillo’s statements shocked many, he is merely regurgitating what is said in Ukraine but bringing it to the notice of millions of English speakers. It is recalled that Oleksiy Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, said in early August that Russians are “Asians” and that the key difference between them and Ukrainians is “humanity.” This was preceded by Mikhail Podoliak, an adviser to the chief of President Vladimir Zelensky’s office, saying in June that the only plan for Ukraine’s much-lauded counteroffensive was “the maximum killing of Russians.”
Ashton-Cirillo arrived in Ukraine in March 2022, shortly after the Russian military operation started on February 24, and immediately started propagating for the Kiev regime as a reporter and then enlisting as a combat medic. Besides propagating as a spokesman, he also hosts the state-sponsored news program ‘Russia Hates the Truth,’ which claims to fight “Russian propaganda.”
The transgender spokesperson claimed on August 3 that a “part of the narrative used against me by the propagandist war criminals in Russia was focused on my identity. That’s a laughable line of attack since in Ukraine we aren’t fighting for tolerance or acceptance for select groups of people but liberty and liberation for all people.”
However, it is recalled that Ashton-Cirillo told the LGBT newspaper Washington Blade on May 25 that a crucial facet of that liberation would be for the “victory [to] help strengthen the LGBT community around the world because there’s going to be one less country that will be able to persecute Ukrainians, LGBTQ members,” demonstrating he makes contradictory statements depending on which outlet he is speaking to.
Rather, Ashton-Cirillo is just a self-absorbed narcissist of the very worst kind, whose 17 months in Ukraine has already made him comfortable enough to broadcast to tens of millions around the world his Nazi-like dehumanisation of Russians, something which was not seen favourably with most people except with the equally self-absorbed and narcissistic NAFO.