A transgender journalist from the United States is now the official spokesperson for the Territorial Defense Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The Kyiv Post on Thursday tweeted that Sarah Ashton-Cyrilo “has become one of the spokespeople for the defense force” and her work on Ukraine was soon praised in statements by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and Hanna Mylar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister.
“Having been in Ukraine for almost 520 days, in various civilian and military capacities, I have come to appreciate more than anything the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people,” Ashton-Cyrillo told Newsweek in an email. “Over the past month, as my role has evolved from an infantry soldier to one of the public voices of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, I have become even more grateful for this force,” she said.
Ashton-Cirillo arrived in Ukraine in March 2022, shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of the country in February. She initially worked in the country as a reporter, prompting USA Today to call her “the world’s first openly transgender military correspondent.” However, after witnessing the war firsthand, she was drafted into the Armed Forces of Ukraine and worked as a combat medic.
During an interview with CBS News in February 2023, Ashton-Cirillo revealed that her squad had been involved in a skirmish earlier that day. The unit suffered casualties as Ashton-Cirillo said she was hit by shrapnel, causing injuries to her arm and face.
Ashton-Chyrillo continues to serve as a junior sergeant in the Ukrainian army and has already started working for the Territorial Defense Force as the host of the English-language programs Ukraine in the Know and Russia Hates the Truth.
“I have never been more pleased to read the dual statements released by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar regarding my work for victory,” Ashton-Cirillo wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “This official support for my service in Ukraine, done in such a swift and public manner, is humbling and affirming in ways I will never be able to properly describe.”
After news of Ashton-Chirillo’s new role sparked negative comments from some Russian bloggers, the junior sergeant was protected by prominent Ukrainians. Among them was Inna Sovsun – a member of the Ukrainian parliament – who congratulated Ashton-Chyrilo while also jumping on the skeptics.
“@SarahAshtonLV is a brave woman who defends #Ukraine! She deserves respect and gratitude! Sarah, I congratulate you on the position of spokesperson for the Territorial Defense Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces!” Sovsun wrote on Twitter. “Hatred from Russian propaganda is proof that you are doing everything right!”
Ashton-Cirillo also addressed the backlash she received from Russian sources about her role as spokesperson in her email to Newsweek.
“When the Russian TV station Channel One and numerous Kremlin-run Telegram pages totaling millions of people announced that I had been appointed as the official English-language spokesperson for the Territorial Defense Forces of Ukraine, the Moscow cabal’s response was, as expected, angry and cruel,” she wrote.
🇺🇦🇺🇸Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, transgender woman, from the United States has become one of the speakers for the Defense Forces.
Sarah serves as a junior sergeant and combat medic in the Ukrainian Ground Forces. pic.twitter.com/5Si6pN4U54
— KyivPost (@KyivPost) August 3, 2023
Ashton-Cirillo continued her message by highlighting the support she has received from Mylar, her immediate commanders, her colleagues at the Territorial Defense Force Media Studios and the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. She has also been criticized for being attacked online because of her transgender identity.
“Part of the narrative used against me by the propaganda war criminals in Russia was focused on my identity. This is a ridiculous line of attack because in Ukraine we are not fighting for tolerance or acceptance for selected groups of people, but for freedom and liberation for all people,” Ashton-Cirillo said. “This is a concept that the whole world will witness after the return of Ukraine to its 1991 borders and the implementation of President Zelensky’s 10-point peace formula.”
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