The attention that Navalny got from US and EU governments, politicians and mass media was significantly more pronounced, than when Gonzalo Lira died in captivity, in a Ukrainian jail. Considering that Navalny was not a citizen of a Western country, while Lira was a citizen of US, what are the possible motives for the difference in the levels of coverage that these two people received upon their deaths? What contributes to the elevated sensitivity to the death of a "foreign" national over their own citizen? What might be some legal, political, credibility, or other restrictions and/or ramifications that may have caused US and EU governments to withstand from making statements about Lira's death?

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    This is an important question really. At its core - why would US and EU governments care more about a foreign national, than one of "their own"? There may be many reasons, but it's not a biased question at its core. It would be significantly MORE biased to censor such important questions.
    – MishaP
    Mar 11 at 13:48
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    The question should include at least sme information about Lira and his death, so one could get an idea about whether thes evenets are similar or not.
    – Toffomat
    Mar 11 at 19:42
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    What about questions always suffer a bit. Let me guess, the situations are not comparable? If only such questions would make more effort in thoroughly investigating the similarities and differences of these cases. It looks a bit as if a question about Lira couldn't stand on its own (can it?) or that the purpose is to discredit Nawalny. Mar 12 at 22:08
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    It would benefit from information such as: has anyone alleged that Lira was murdered by Ukraine? Had Ukraine previously tried to kill Lira? Is anyone saying that Lira's death was suspicious at all?
    – Stuart F
    Mar 15 at 17:05

6 Answers 6


Fundamentally it would be inconsistent foreign policy to simultaneously sanction and fund the same country.

But Lira and Navalny seem to be two very different characters in very different circumstances.

Lira was only well known to the chronically online, in particular the Western 'manosphere', anti-mainstream and pro-Putin crowds. There's little to no political capital to be made out of him. As it happens, he was made more (in)famous by Russian outlets.

An unsympathetic character before his dispatches from Ukraine, he behaved contrary to Western foreign policy when he started publishing pro-Russian propaganda. He also doxxed American journalists covering the war in Ukraine.

He was living in Kharkiv, Ukraine when he was arrested and charged under 436-2 of Ukraine's Criminal Code:

Justification, recognition as legitimate, denial of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, glorification of its participants

He was accused of:

  • publicly justifying Russia's attack by claiming that a neo-Nazi regime had been established in Ukraine
  • denying the facts of Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian cities, the mass killings of Ukrainian civilians by the Russian occupiers in Bucha and other cities
  • personally filming the Ukrainian military, trying to show their faces and insulting them, and publishing the videos online

He was released on bail, his bail conditions obliged him to stay at his home, and in an attempt to escape the country he obviously violated his bail conditions. He even published video evidence of him doing that. He was arrested again and held in prison.

Rightly or wrongly a number of countries have had wartime laws against publishing pro-enemy propaganda - it is not something peculiar to Ukraine. Generally, one can be critical of one's (host) country but not pro-enemy. And many countries have peacetime laws against breaching bail or similar, satisfied to have people out on bail so long as they don't attempt to avoid trial.

It doesn't seem wholly unjust that he was detained pending trial, particularly after breaching bail. His death doesn't seem to be a deliberate act.

Western people wouldn't agree with all of Nalvany's views, especially some of those he expressed in the past. However, it seemed clear that he was persecuted by Putin et al for political reasons.

There's a list of government actions against Nalvany but I think the most obvious and ridiculous example was when he was arrested on returning to Russia from Germany for violating parole - having been in Germany for treatment for the Novichok poisoning likely done by Russia's FSB.

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    "He was released on bail, his bail conditions obliged him to stay at his home, and in an attempt to escape the country he obviously violated his bail conditions." In the case of Navalny, the reason for his arrest was similar; he was also under house arrest and had to report to the authorities. Feb 27 at 15:28
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    @AlexeiBanalni Yes, but Lira wasn't poisoned by the state and evacuated for medical treatment outside the country.
    – Lag
    Feb 27 at 16:13
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    I have to downvote this answer since this basically mirrors how Russia treats people like Navalny, and doesn't explain why the situation is asymmetrical. Feb 28 at 12:05
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    @ReasonablyAgainstGenocide the answer clearly explained the differences. One was a political figure whose main reason for deliberate killing was that he was opposing the fuhrer. Another was some whaco trash, who supported war. In one case it is clear that he was killed by putin's order, in another died himself. One was well known to the point that probably 1 in 10 people in europe will know who he is, another is noname whom even russian propagandists would not know. Mar 1 at 4:46
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    @SalvadorDali But in Russia they will see it the other way. In America they say: One was killed for opposing the Führer and the other was some political wacko. In Russia they say: One was some political wacko, and the other was killed for opposing the Führer. Hence the symmetry. Mar 1 at 16:14

You may think this is over the top, but some have argued that Lira's death was in part caused by

  • Heavy smoking and medication skepticism.

The 55-year-old Lira’s medical problems are a result of a lifetime of Lira’s heavy smoking and refusal to both get vaccinated [img, snd] and even seek basic medical care since “the drugs don’t work,” [snd].

Lira admitted that he had a “serious heart condition” and was “not in the best of shape,” and did so while chain smoking [vid].

Despite his serious heart condition, Lira said that it was a “LIE! LIE! LIE!” that “there are some medicines that help you, like … heart medication” [snd].

Lira made it clear he believed medications were for the weak, stating: “pill pill pill… FAGGOT! FAGGOT! FAGGOT!” [snd].

Lira admitted years ago he had likely contracted COVID and had experienced cardiac arrhythmia and respiratory problems [img]; he sought no treatment except vitamins, carbohydrates, and salt [img] (a risk factor for fluid retention, hypertension, atrial tachycardia and atrial fibrillation, and salt intake can increase arrhythmia inducibility) [web, web].

(Go to the source for the parenthetical links--too many to paste here.)

Why would the US sanction Ukraine for the above?

Someone suggested in a comment

They should have sanctioned Ukraine for imprisoning him for actions that amount to sharing his opinions publicly.

Which countries has the US sanctioned just for that? Germany? For their anti-Nazi-speech laws? Etc. Yeah, it may be your opinion that the US should impose its exact interpretation of free speech on the whole world via sanctions, but... srlsy

If I'm to be a little more cynical, sanctions are indeed sometimes imposed by the US based on how much a US detainee abroad has characteristics that resonate with a part of the electorate that supports the current president.

So yeah, given Lira's characteristics and whom he appealed to, maybe Trump would have eventually threatened to impose sanctions on Ukraine, like he publicly he did to Turkey in 2018:

The Trump administration escalated the pressure campaign to free Andrew Brunson a day after a court ordered that he be moved to house arrest after 21 months in detention. He is on trial for terrorism charges.

"The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being," Trump wrote in a tweet.

"He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!"

Shortly before, Vice President Mike Pence, a devout Christian, made a similar threat directly at Turkey's president.

"To President (Tayyip) Erdogan and the Turkish government, I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America: release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences," Pence told a religious freedom conference hosted by the U.S. State Department.

Neither Trump nor Pence elaborated on what sanctions they could impose, although sanctions experts speculated that the administration could consider visa restrictions against senior Turkish officials.

U.S. evangelicals have been an influential part of Trump's coalition of support, both in his campaign and in his administration, and have pushed the White House to act on the Brunson case.

Trump's ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, said Brunson's detention had been raised with Turkey's leadership for some months, and while his transfer to house arrest was an improvement, "he is not free."

The threat of sanctions prompted a downturn in Turkey's financial markets.

But I'm not holding my breath in Lira's case. Insofar I didn't find any high caliber US conservative politicians who argued for his case. Lira's case was mainly championed by Tucker Carlson and Elon Musk, from the US personalities. (And the latter just with like a Tweet.) And they both have fringe political views in certain respects.

Also note how long it took from time of detention for pressure to be applied publicly from the top level in Brunson's case (despite the political stars aligning otherwise in that case). Lira was only re-arrested last summer.

And even in Russia's case, Navalny was a well-known dissident, for a long time. Remember his trip to Germany after was poisoner with novichok (according to Western sources)? Heck, even Trump compared himself with Navalny. (So call that bipartisan admiration.) The US didn't impose rounds of sanctions over random demonstrators that were arrested. Or AFAICT, even over US journalists working at premier newspapers (Wall Street Journal) that were arrested for somewhat transparent (swap) reasons.

Speaking of which, there are also headlines like

Donald Trump, who ignored Paul Whelan for two years, says deal to return Brittney Griner to US was ‘stupid’ [....]

But when it came to Mr Whelan, Mr Trump was silent in the weeks and months following his 28 December 2018 arrest, and that silence continued through the final two years of his term as president.

Mr Trump’s then-national security adviser, John Bolton, eventually took a meeting with Mr Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth Whelan, approximately six months after his arrest, on 16 June 2019. Mr Bolton later wrote on Twitter that the meeting had been “productive” and said Russia had “produced no evidence” that he had committed any wrongdoing.

But apart from that meeting, Mr Trump’s administration did not take any public actions to encourage Mr Whelan’s release, leading him to desperately implore the then-president to help during a 20 June 2019 court appearance. [...]

Mr Trump never tweeted about him, nor did he raise his case during a June 2019 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 that year.

But the then-president did task his special envoy for hostage affairs, Robert O’Brien, with seeing to another matter of great importance to Mr Trump. He traveled to Stockholm, Sweden to observe the trial of another American, the rapper A$AP Rocky. Mr Trump had repeatedly tweeted about the entertainer, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, after he was arrested for assault by Swedish police.

Unlike the espionage charges against Mr Whelan, which the US government has long acknowledged as fabricated, the American rapper and members of his entourage were captured on video punching and kicking a man who he later claimed had been following him.

Even as he ignored Mr Whelan’s plight, Mr Trump browbeat then Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven to bypass the court process and release A$AP Rocky, even going so far as to offer to personally pay whatever bail was required to release him from custody.

When Mr Lofven declined, the then-president took to Twitter to call out Swedish authorities, writing: “Give A$AP Rocky his FREEDOM. We do so much for Sweden but it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem!”

So, yeah, if Lira had lasted a few more months, who knows where his rising star in the MAGA circles would have taken him. Given all that, if the pro-Russia/Ukraine-is-the-most-corrupt-country-in-Europe wing of the GOP somehow wins a majority or manages logrolling well enough, we might yet see a "Lira Act" (although it has some competition with A$AP Focus-on-Real-Crime Act, maybe.) This episode of The Daily Show is over.

Somewhat more seriously, if you look closely at the history of how the Magnitsky Act passed (on Wikipedia), it was tacked to another act that was part of Obama's "reset" with Russia then, granting Russia some economic concessions.

[Magnitsky's friend Bill] Browder later wrote that the Magnitsky Act found quick bipartisan support because the corruption exposed by Magnitsky was blatant beyond dispute, and "[t]here wasn't a pro-Russian-torture-and-murder lobby to oppose it."

The Obama administration fought the bill until Congress signaled the 2012 Jackson–Vanik bill would not be repealed unless the Magnitsky Act passed. In November 2012, provisions of the Magnitsky bill were attached to a House bill (H.R. 6156) normalizing trade with Russia (i.e., repealing the Jackson–Vanik amendment) and Moldova.

The compromise was even reflected in the full title of the bill: "Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012".

So, sanctions on some individuals while making concessions to a country as a whole is part of the possible, or "art of the deal" in the US Congress. Imaginably, the US could give Ukraine more aid, but sanction some people involved in some "bad stuff" there, possibly including the death of Lira, if it's taken up as a cause by enough in Congress. (Continued US aid to Israel while sanctioning some settlers is also a somewhat similar tradeoff.)


Several reasons, each of which alone already suffices to explain the differences.

  1. Political reactions tend to follow notable events. Navalny was widely known, and thus his death widely reported. Thus, reacting somehow was unavoidable for western politicians. Lira was rather unknown, so the most natural reaction to his death is to do nothing.

  2. In a free and democratic country, Navalny wouldn't have been in prison in the first place. On the other hand, Lira clearly broke reasonable laws, and thus seems to have been imprisoned justly. Navalny already had a well-documented poisoning attempt on him. Thus, it seems natural to assume foulplay in his death, but not in Lira's. In most cases, deaths by pneumonia of prisoners would make me suspect highly problematic conditions in that prison, but given the war, in particular the disruptions of the energy grid, it's hard to blame Ukraine for this.

  3. Navalny was broadly seen as sympathetic in the west. He was known primarily for his anti-corruption campaign, and for his bravery in standing up against Putin. Thus, many people will be sad that he is gone, and welcome attempts to strike back at those responsible. Lira on the other hand seems to be notable for incel-propaganda and justifying the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While I don't think this would justify murdering a prisoners, I definitely don't find it sad that he is dead either.

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    "Lira clearly broke reasonable laws" and these would be?.. Aren't they basically the same "discreditation of armed forces" laws Russia is scolded for, only harsher?
    – alamar
    Feb 27 at 13:17
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    @alamar Justifying the invasion. Compare how Ezra Pound was charged with treason in the US.
    – Arno
    Feb 27 at 13:20
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    The case of Ezra Pound is especially notable because it's the US who invaded Italy in WWII, and not the other way around (needless to say, for a good reason). I wonder how would you view treason charges for Russian citizens claiming that Zelensky is a hero.
    – alamar
    Feb 27 at 13:40
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    One of the listed offenses, pre-arrest, was recording and publishing Ukrainian troops. That's not speech in war time, as such information is used in actual, real, people-killing attacks. Whether that was enough to sustain a conviction would be a matter for trial. He broke other laws since then.
    – bharring
    Feb 28 at 15:24

Other questions focus on the differences in motives for imprisonment. I'll look at the death instead.

There are 3 types of deaths in prison:

  • suspicious

  • unforeseen but natural

  • natural, but foreseen

Let's start with the last, natural, but foreseen. It is not uncommon for prisoners to get a compassionate release when they are afflicted with a known terminal disease.

For example, the only convicted Lockerbie bomber had cancer and was released for that reason, dying 3 years later. Had Lira had a fatal prognostic going, yes, maybe an early release would have been in the cards.

Next you have unforeseen, but natural. This is supposedly what Lira died of, pneumonia. Someone might very well die in jail, happens all the time.

Last, suspicious. Now, why would Navalny be suspicious? In a normal country, Navalny's death might very well be like Lira's. But is Russia a normal country wrt sudden deaths of regime troublemakers?

and all sorts of unfortunate accidents falling from balconies.

(tranferred from comments)

83 Journalists Killed in Russia between 1992 and 2024

which ... is a lot, outside a warzone

"The West" just doesn't trust Russia after all these weird deaths.

And Navalny died conveniently before another round of elections while Lira's death was of limited benefit to Ukraine's government. Rather the opposite, judging from this type of question.

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    Please avoid off-topic discussions in comments. This question and answer is about Russia. This is not the place to debate the Gaza conflict. In fact this whole site is not a place to have any political discussions. But discussions that are not even relevant to the content they are posted under are double-off-topic.
    – Philipp
    Feb 29 at 14:14

Several differences not already noted:

  • Navalnii: Russian-born, Russian citizen, politically active against his own government and imprisoned as a direct result of that political activity.

  • Lira: Foreign-born, foreign citizen, politically active against the government of his host country and actively supporting an enemy attacking it during the war started by that enemy.

While both technically committed crimes, as seen by the governments (respectively Russian and Ukranian), the former has committed the crime of dissent and opposition, while the latter has committed the crime of aiding the enemy during an active war.

The Navalnii's is generally not considered a crime in the West, and Western countries actively act against governments silencing dissent.

The Lira's crime is generally considered an unreasonable behavior, and would be considered as a similarly motivated crime almost universally. In the US, the US Constitution (Article III Section 3 Clause 1) explicitly defines aiding an enemy at the time of war as a crime of treason:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

Note that "aid and comfort" can also include spreading propaganda and misinformation, which is what Lira is accused of doing.

While treason is generally reserved for citizens, aiding and abetting the enemy is a crime for everyone. Even Russian citizens in Ukraine are expected to not aid and abet the enemy in order to not be considered enemy combatants.

The US generally doesn't interfere with criminal prosecution of its citizens even if the crime committed would not have been a crime in the US. But especially so if it would have been a crime in the US. Providing consular support and ensuring the accused' rights are not being harmed is not considered to be interference, but trying to affect the government (including via sanctions) is. For example, in the case of Brittney Griner, while the DoS determined her to be wrongfully detained, there were no sanctions against Russia.

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    Lira being a US citizen should supposedly have been in his favor in terms of US being incensed at his death while in prison.
    – einpoklum
    Feb 27 at 22:54

Russia is now being sanctioned, and Ukraine is not. Just the way things are.

It is possible to put some new sanctions into connection with notable event like a death of the famous leader of the opposition, but the actual reason of these sanctions is different and very obvious. It is because of the actions that the army of Russian Federation is doing in Ukraine now. Regardless if Navalny is dead or alive, new sanctions are coming on regular basis and this will continue.

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