By Chay Bowes, journalist and geopolitical analyst, MA in Strategic Studies
As winter approaches and the scale of Kiev’s losses in its failing counteroffensive emerges, Ukraine’s transgender military spokesperson Sarah Ashton-Cirillo has deftly avoided the topic and instead delivered a cringeworthy threat-laden rant on social media.
The one-time American political campaigner and newfound “Face of free Ukraine” struggled to contain her hatred for Russia and all things Russian. In a particularly energetic monologue, she said “propagandists” (meaning journalists who don’t toe Kiev’s narrative line on the conflict) would be “hunted down,” and made to “pay” for their refusal to agree with the Kiev regime’s worldview, apparently a war crime in the court of Ashton-Cirillo’s imagination.
Amidst her over-the-top promises of “gnashing of teeth and foaming at the mouth” to come, it’s worth pointing out that in many ways this person defines the many moral contradictions of the West’s proxy war. This theatrically presented individual is routinely rolled out by the Kiev regime, presumably in an attempt to underline Ukraine’s apparent acceptance of transgender people. In this, Vladimir Zelensky’s PR priority to virtue signal to the West trumps reality: his country has a track record of oppression against LGBTQ rights, detailed in multiple human rights reports published prior to the start of Russia’s military operation in February 2022. In an apparent effort to memory-hole that history, Kiev is now parading one of the world’s best-known transgender personalities, a personality who seems all too happy to deliver the threats of a regime capable of deploying a well-resourced and deadly security service to kill, maim, and terrorize its political opponents at home and abroad.
Interestingly, and likewise prior to the latest phase of the conflict, the English-language megaphone of the Zelensky regime, the Kyiv Post, published a story outlining deep seated corruption and dysfunction in Kiev's main security and intelligence agency, the KGB successor known as the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). In that article, which would be almost impossible to publish in today’s utterly repressed Ukrainian media landscape, the paper suggested that since the beginning of the Donbass conflict after the Maidan coup in 2014, the SBU had been abusing its powers, enriching itself while acting with absolute impunity as what amounted to a private security and enforcement army for the oligarch turned president, Pyotr Poroshenko.
Fast forward to 2023 and this controversial and secretive agency has cemented its position as the most feared element in an increasingly authoritarian and aggressive Ukrainian security infrastructure. The SBU is now central to the internal repression of all political opposition, the Orthodox Church, and control of all domestic challenges to the pro-Western government of Vladimir Zelensky. Six years ago, the Kyiv Post suggested that the SBU had “become effectively uncontrollable and unaccountable,” and given the scale of the conflict and dysfunction enveloping Ukraine today, we can presume that the SBU’s impunity and power has expanded to impact every element of Ukrainian society. With apparent assistance from the CIA, MI5 and other NATO intelligence services, it has now further expanded its access to data on “enemies of Ukraine,” whether real or imagined.
Most crucially, the SBU now projects its sinister capabilities well beyond the borders of its own state, targeting what it deems “propagandists” and “collaborators” in eastern Ukraine and Russia with terrorist attacks and intimidation via its network of agents and operatives. While never openly admitted, the SBU’s involvement in attacks on Russian soil is all but certain, with evidence ranging from a perpetrator’s confession and revelations by a former head of the service, to the sheer reach of the operations and the choice of targets themselves – taken straight from the notorious ‘Mirotvorets’ kill list, which had openly advertised its links to the SBU and Ukrainian police in the past.
What’s perhaps more fascinating about the bloody operations the SBU has embarked upon since the beginning of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine in 2022, isn’t the extrajudicial killings and assassinations themselves. What’s really fascinating is how Kiev’s Western funders and “partners” choose to actively ignore its routine use of what any objective observer would have to describe as terrorism, with “respectable” Western publications like The Economist publishing disturbingly complimentary articles about the SBU, describing its gruesome work against unarmed “targets” in articles stylized as adventurous escapades by a steely underdog. The Economist’s article “Inside Ukraine’s Assassination Programme,” blatantly attempts to legitimize the brutality of the covert assassination operations, only voicing concern that “a clear strategy is absent.”
Despite this, the glorification of this shady and corrupt organisation is evident across the Western media, with attempts to present the murder of a defenseless, unarmed young woman like Daria Dugina as legitimate, snidely implying that her brutal killing was in some way justified by her opposing political views. Another allegedly respectable news outlet, The New York Times, suggested that “since the beginning of the war, Ukraine’s security services have demonstrated their ability to reach into Russia to conduct sabotage operations.” Tellingly, rather than describe the killing of Dugina as what it was, murder, the NYT said it was “one of the boldest operations to date — showing Ukraine can get very close to prominent Russians.”
An American newspaper describing the killing of an innocent young woman, by a car bomb, near a European capital as “bold,” underlines the selective morality that Western media willfully deploys when it comes to the coverage of the conflict in Ukraine, an attitude that was similarly exposed when blogger and war reporter Vladlen Tatarsky was murdered in a targeted assassination in St. Petersburg in April. In the aftermath, Reuters suggested that “the killing is an attack on the hardline pro-war camp in Russia, and sends a warning to other members of this group that they could be targeted anywhere.” Again, there is no concern that it took place in a restaurant full of civilians, on a public street, with absolutely no warning being given. What would routinely be described by Reuters as terrorism anywhere else, is subliminally conjured into some form of heroic resistance operation targeting a “propagandist,” rather than the daylight murder of a private individual for disagreeing with the Kiev narrative on the conflict in Ukraine, a country of which he was once a citizen.
So, as the Western media increasingly fails to suppress the gruesome reality of Ukraine’s military failures, it's unfortunately likely that Kiev will increase attempts to deliver some sort of impact elsewhere, and despite reports that Ukraine’s targeted assassinations have likely left a bad taste in their NATO handlers’ mouths, its equally unlikely that they are in any position to restrain the brutal apparatus they have been so instrumental in creating. While Kiev’s Western partners publicly evangelize values like freedom of speech, democracy, and the rights of the individual, privately they arm, train, and intimately collaborate with an organisation that now openly boasts of carrying out terror attacks against civilian infrastructure and political adversaries, cynically targeted for simply disagreeing. All things considered, it’s now absolutely obvious that Western moral outrage mysteriously evaporates at the Russian border, with no crime against Russians, or those calling for balanced debate, being unforgivable in the West. Sadly, it seems NATO’s proxies in Kiev are determined to license, facilitate, and then ignore increasingly sinister and brutal “operations” by the SBU and its paid accomplices, with Washington’s and Brussels’ willful “a-la-carte” attitude to morality remaining as stunning as it is indefensible.