The Claim and Our Verdict
- The claim: Amid the Russian-Ukraine war, a set of photos are being shared on social media along with a claim that they show Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the frontline during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- The photos of Zelenskyy wearing a military uniform were taken in December 2021, prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. These photos were shared with false contextual information.
- As of issuance of the report, mainstream news media outlets haven’t published or broadcast any information on Ukraine’s president visiting the frontline during the Russia-Ukraine war. In addition, Zelenskyy’s official Facebook page and Twitter account have not published any related information, either.
- Our ruling: We rate the claim as FALSE.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. A set of photos was shared Feb. 25, 2022, on Facebook, along with a claim that they show Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the frontline during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The traditional Chinese-language post translates as, “Over my Dead body! Ukraine’s President took off his suit and put on a military uniform to join the troops in fighting to protect the Ukrainian homeland. Although the U.S. warned Zelenskyy of the potential risks ahead, he opted not to leave Ukraine. He’d rather die in Ukraine, and stay together with his land, his people, and his family.”
As of the issuance of this report, the post had been shared 436 times, and it had received 275 comments and 3,148 likes or reactions.
A reverse image search led to the original photo published Dec. 6, 2021, on Getty Images. The caption claims the photo was taken when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited frontline positions of the Ukrainian military in Donbas, Ukraine, on Dec. 6, 2021.
A similar photo was published Dec. 10, 2021, by Reuters. The caption reads, “Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with the country’s service members at the combat positions near the line of separation from Russian-backed rebels on the Day of the Armed Forces in the Donetsk region, Ukraine December 6, 2021.” Therefore, the photo was taken prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was shared with false contextual information.
Concerning another photo posted in the claim, we found it was originally shared Apr. 8, 2021, in an article on the website of the Ukrainian presidential press office (archived here). This photo, therefore, also predates Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A keyword search found that from Feb. 24, 2022, (the date when Russia invaded Ukraine) to Mar. 14, 2022 (the publishing date of this fact check), mainstream news agencies, such as The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse, did not publish any news articles related to the claim. During the same period, Zelenskyy’s official Facebook page and Twitter account did not published any relevant information, either.
To conclude, the viral photos of Zelenskyy wearing a military uniform were taken in December 2021, prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These photos show Zelenskyy visiting frontline positions of the Ukrainian military in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.
- Facebook post (1), 25, 2022.
- Facebook post (2), 25, 2022.
- Facebook post (3), 25, 2022.
- Twitter post (1), Feb. 25, 2022.
- Weibo post, Feb. 25, 2022.
- Facebook post (4), 26, 2022.
- Twitter post (2), 25, 2022.
- Getty Images, “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Donbass,” Dec. 6, 2021.
- Reuters, “Biden assures Zelenskiy that NATO membership in Ukraine’s hands, Kyiv says,”Dec. 10, 2021.
- AP News, official website.
- Reuters, official website.
- AFP, official website.
- Facebook page, Володимир Зеленський.
- Twitter page, ZelenskyyUa.