The Claim and Our Verdict
- The claim: A tweet published Feb. 27, 2022, claims that the British news outlet, The Guardian, used an old photo to report a Russian air strike amid the Russia–Ukraine war.
- The photo was captured Feb. 24, 2022, by Wolfgang Schwan. It shows a wounded woman, who was later identified as the 53-year-old teacher Olena Kurilo, stood in the ruins of a residential building in Chuhuiv after a Russian air strike on the area.
- Several media outlets, including Agence France-Presse, The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Independent, and Anadolu Agency, reported on the air strike with images and video clips. The scenes shown in these reports are corresponding to those in the photo used by The Guardian.
- An interview with Olena Kurilo includes her feelings and experience on the Russia–Ukraine war. Therefore, we can confirm the photo used by The Guardian shows a scene after the Russia air strike amid the Russia–Ukraine war.
- Our ruling: We rate the claim as FALSE.
A tweet published Feb. 27, 2022, claims a news article published Feb. 25, 2022, by The Guardian used an old photo of a gas explosion in Russia in 2018, to report on the current Russia–Ukraine war. The caption, which was written in traditional Chinese, translates as, “The Guardian used the photo of a gas explosion a few years ago to report on Putin’s invasion into Ukraine… Are you still reading mainstream media’s feed? Does it taste a little heavy?”
As of the issuance of this report, the post had been retweeted 72 times, 10 times with comments, and had received 202 likes.
A reverse image search found that the photographer Wolfgang Schwan captured the photo and published it on his Instagram account. The Instagram post reads, “A residential apartment complex was struck by a Russian airstrike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine, on the morning of Feb. 24, 2022.” A news article published Feb. 26, 2022 by The Daily Mail claims the wounded woman in the photo is 53-year-old teacher Olena Kurilo.
A keyword search found multiple news articles about this wounded woman, for example, the Evening Standards article published Feb. 25, The Sun article published Feb. 26, and The Independent article published Mar. 2. According to these reports, the kindergarten teacher, Olena Kurilo, is half-Russian. She was 25 meters from one of Putin’s missiles in Chuhuiv, Ukraine. Shattered glass cut through her face and into her right eye, which may cause her eyesight loss. She pleaded with Putin to stop the meaningless war. In The Independent article, the photographer Schwan said the picture of Olena is terrible to look at but had to be taken. This is his first time documenting a war zone.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Anadolu Agency published Feb. 24, 2022 the photos and videos of the airstrike. Below is a comparison of the photos published by AFP, Anadolu Agency, and The Guardian, with corresponding features of the white building.
On Feb. 25, 2022, AFP also published a special report of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Kurilo’s interview was at the 1:07 mark. She expressed her deep condolences to those who lost their lives in the air strike and condemned Russia’s invasion. According to AFP’s translation, Kurilo said, “I never thought that such a thing could happen. I never thought that this would truly happen in this lifetime. We wrote poems about the war. I, myself, am a director, an educator. We studied the history, but we never thought this would happen on our land.”
Therefore, the Guardian photo does show a scene during the Russia–Ukraine war. The woman in the photo is a 53-year-old kindergarten teacher, named Olena Kurilo. She was wounded after the shelling of an apartment complex in Chuhuiv.
Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.
- Twitter, tweet (1), 27, 2022.
- Instagram, post, Feb. 24, 2022.
- Daily Mail, “Teacher, 52, whose bloodied face became the iconic image of the sickening war in Ukraine, pleads with Vladimir Putin to halt the carnage before more children are orphaned and mothers lose their babies,” Feb. 26, 2022.
- Evening Standard, “Olena Kurilo: Story of the woman whose bloodied face was pictured across world,” Feb. 25, 2022.
- The Sun, “‘WE ARE AFRAID: Mum whose face was left covered in blood after Russia blitzed apartment block pleads for Putin to stop attacks,” Feb. 26, 2022.
- Independent, “Ukraine war photojournalist Wolfgang Schwan: ‘My picture of Olena is terrible to look at but had to be taken’,” Mar. 2, 2022.
- Twitter, tweet (2), Feb. 24, 2022.
- Twitter, tweet (3), Feb. 24, 2022.
- YouTube, video, Feb. 24, 2022.