Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, a transgender female non-commissioned officer from Nevada, arrived in Ukraine in March 2022 and started reporting on refugees on her YouTube channel.

She later joined the Ukrainian army and is now a spokesperson for the country's military, explaining the war to English-speaking audiences.
Russian television broadcast an hour-long program in which Ashton-Cirillo was called "a terrible disgrace for the Ukrainian people" and a "monster".

Ashton-Cirillo, who has a background in journalism and research, had said he planned to stay in Ukraine for only two weeks.
For 19 months, Crillo, a non-commissioned officer, has been broadcasting live YouTube programs from his studio called "Ukraine Expert" and "Russia Hates the Truth".

Crillo, who has 156,000 followers, also posts regularly on Twitter.

Ashton-Cirillo, who does not speak Ukrainian, relays official Ukrainian statements and mocks Russian media reports.
Her job also includes monitoring international media.

In August, she announced a "boycott" of CNN, which called foreign fighters in Ukraine "mercenaries", and quickly corrected an article published by US television.

Wearing a uniform bearing the badge of his unit and the Latin slogan "Ad resistendum" (To resist), Crillo said, "I'm sure my commanders are a little worried about what will happen. But they appreciate my work."

"The Russians are obsessed," Crillo said, adding, "I follow Google pretty regularly around the world, and most of the traffic is from Russia."

Crillo said Ukrainians' reactions have been mixed, with some hesitant about "who I am and how I fit in with Ukrainian society," but the country has become more tolerant in recent years.

Ukraine's military hosts gay events and has allowed LGBT members to join its ranks, but has been criticized by the European Court of Human Rights for not legally recognizing same-sex couples.

When Ashton-Cirillo first arrived, he was working as a journalist and civic activist in the eastern Kharkiv region.

Much of the region fell under Russian occupation and was subjected to many missile attacks.

"Witnessing war crimes and Russian terrorism up close was the process that took me from being a neutral observer to a fighter. As a soldier, I felt I could do more from within the system."

Crillo volunteered to join a unit made up of Crimean Tatars, a Muslim minority, and was soon on Russia's radar.
In April 2022, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova spoke of "a transgender journalist from Las Vegas who broadcast from Kharkiv and photographed herself hugging bandits."

Ashton-Cirillo initially said she was sorry, but her Ukrainian colleagues urged her to become more of a spokesperson.

"I was literally accused of being Satan, I was just responding to the (US) State Department. These are crazy, crazy comments. When the Russians found out that I was on the front line, they were actively looking for my unit. They were trying to make absolutely sure that I was somehow neutralized, either captured or killed."

Crillo said that the armed forces decided that he had to leave the front line and offered him a job in the media unit. He said that he was initially reluctant and felt guilty for leaving his comrades behind: "I didn't want to come to Kiev 100 percent, I wanted to be with my unit in the east, but our task now is to wage this information war."