Fact check: disinformation on Russian and Ukrainian social media

From Ukraine President on the warfront, to the wife of a non-existent Ukrainian Vice President, here are some false claims that went viral on social media

March 08, 2022 10:25 am | Updated 10:25 am IST

Misleading claims and information on Russia-Ukraine are rampant in social media since the former launched its military operation against the latter on February 24.

Here is a fact check on some of the claims that went viral in the recent times.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the war zone?

Photos of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the military fatigue claiming that "he is leading a fight against Russia" went rounds on social media immediately after Russia began its military operation.

"This is President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.He took of his presidential attire and dressed up in this army uniform to help his troops to protect the borders.He's not just a leader or a president or anything,he is a KING! big mad respect for him tho. Just a simple picture with millions of words," wrote @Wiseman on Facebook.

Mr. Zelenskyy is indeed fighting Russia in every possible way but he has certainly not gone to the border. The images were a part of Ukrainian Presidential Press Service Handouts given to media organisations when he visited the positions of armed forces near the frontline with Russian-backed separatists in Donbass region on April 9, 2021. Here is a link to a Reuters report published on that day. The remaining photos can be seen in the official website of Ukrainian President. President Zelenskyy is active on Twitter and tweets in both English and Ukrainian.

Fact Check: Misleading

Wife of Ukrainian Vice President joins the army?

The woman in this viral photo is not the Second Lady of Ukraine.

The woman in this viral photo is not the Second Lady of Ukraine.

"This is the wife of the Vice president of Ukraine.She is fighting for her motherland.I pray peace prevail," wrote Twitter user @KhellyKelGee. "The wife of the vice president of #Ukraine and these young women are on the front line facing #Russian soldiers head on," wrote another user.

First things first, Ukraine does not have a Vice President. Ukraine, which was a part of the Soviet Union, gained independence in 1991. According to its constitution, adopted in 1996, Ukaine is a unicameral republic. The electors of Ukraine directly elect their President for a five-year term. The head of the Ukrainian government is the prime minister.

Now, going back to the image. It was taken by Kyiv-based photographer Volodymyr Zakharov during the military parade rehearsal carried out on August 22, 2021, on the occasion of 30 years of Ukraine's Independence. The image is available for sale in various stock images websites such as Shutterstock, Alamy and iStockphotos.

Fact check: False

Miss Ukraine joined the army?

Former Miss Ukraine Anastasiia Lenna's gun-weilding image became a fodder for misinformation with several pages claiming the model has joined the military. She had posted those photos in her Instagram account and expressed her support to her country and President Zelenskyy. Several news outlets confused her photoshoot and misreported.

A few days later, she made another post clarifying that she has extended support to the army and she was holding an airsoft gun. Airsoft guns are non-lethal imitation firearms mostly used in military-styled games.

Fact check: Missing context

TIME cover photo compares Putin with Hitler?

Enraged over Russia's action against Ukraine, a graphic designer created a cover art based on TIME Magazine's article. Due to its uncanny similarities with the iconic covers of the magazine, several people believed it to be the original one and began sharing it. It went too viral that the designer himself took to Twitter to clarify it was his artwork.

Here is the original cover of TIME Magazine. An archive of past covers can be accessed in their The Vault section.

Fact check: Manipulated content

Face to face?

A video claiming that Russian and Ukrainian Army came face to face amid raging battle went viral. In the less-than-a-minute video, soldiers carrying the Russian flag and the Ukrainian flag are seen confronting each other. Most of the soldiers appear unarmed.

When screengrabs of the video was used for a reverse image search, it was found that the video is authentic but they were shot in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, a Ukrainian region. The video has been shared by BBC Turkey on Youtube. The caption, in Turkish, read: "There were tense moments at the Belbek Air Base, which belongs to Russia, just outside the city of Sevastapol. As the unarmed Ukrainian soldiers marched towards the base, the Russian soldiers on guard opened warning fire at the Ukrainian soldiers." The video was uploaded on March 4, 2014.

The BBC also carried a report on the incident. The New York Times too used a similar video in their report.

Fact Check: Missing context

Corpse comes back to life?

A video of a reporter purportedly reporting about deaths, and a corpse "moving" was posted on social media claiming it happened in Kyiv. It evoked comments such as how the "West's propaganda" was busted live on air.

A few hours later, the same user clarified it was satire. He was attempting to mock the Western journalists reporting the conflict which he claims to be coloured with racial bias.

But between his tweet and clarifications, a number of people used the video believing it to be true.

The original video was from Vienna, during a climate change protest. A report on the event was published on Austria-based OE24 TV. According to the report, the climate action group Fridays For Future protested in front of the Federal Chancellery in Vienna, with 49 "corpses" to highlight that CO2 emissions, if left unchecked, will lead to 49 deaths by 2100. The Fridays For Future group is inspired by Greta Thunberg's student climate movement.

Fact check: Satire

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.