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FactChecking Claims About the Conflict in Ukraine

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, following months of military buildup and, as we’ve written, repeated denials by Russian officials that their country planned to invade.

As is often the case with major news events, we have seen several false and misleading claims made on social media and by politicians related to the conflict.

People evacuate a contested frontline area near Irpin, Ukraine, on March 10. Photo by Chris McGrath via Getty Images.

Below is a list of the claims that we have fact-checked:

  • Conspiracy theories aimed at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have been circulating on social media since Russia invaded Ukraine. One recent example, falsely attributed to a “Pentagon official,” is the unfounded claim that Zelensky is the cousin of billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

See “Zelensky and Soros Aren’t Cousins, Contrary to Social Media Claim” for more.

  • A recent Facebook post falsely claims that CNN footage from the war in Ukraine was faked, citing a firefighter’s jacket bearing the name of a Canadian city. But the footage was shot in Ukraine. The jacket was donated by a Canadian organization.

See “CNN Video Shows Canadian Fire Gear Donated to Ukraine, Not ‘Fake Footage'” for more.

  • Amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the invasion of Ukraine, a misleading photo posted March 22 on Facebook shows an American fighter jet intercepting a Russian bomber near Alaskan airspace. But the incident was not related to the current situation in Ukraine; the photo appeared in an article published in Aero Magazine in June 2020.

See “Viral Photo of Russian Bomber Shows Incident from 2020” for more.

  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered a barrage of false claims on social media, including a video that purports to show “crisis actors” portraying dead war victims. The video is actually from a climate protest held in Vienna, Austria, weeks before the war in Ukraine began.

See “Video Shows Climate Protest in Austria, Not ‘Crisis Actors’ in Ukraine” for more.

  • Zelensky has appeared in several recent videos that show he has remained in the country since Russia invaded. But a post on Facebook falsely claimed he fled and recorded a video using a green screen to make it appear as though he’s still in Ukraine. There’s no evidence to support the claim. A digital forensics expert told us that nothing in the video indicates it was filmed using a green screen.

See “Zelensky Remains in Ukraine, Despite False Claims on Social Media” for more.

  • Russian planes bombed a hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 9, killing three people and injuring at least 17, including two pregnant women seen in photos shared around the world. Social media posts falsely claimed one woman “posed” as the two women. One of the women died of her injuries, along with her baby; the other gave birth to a daughter.

See “Social Media Posts Misrepresent Victims of Hospital Bombed in Mariupol” for more.

  • Several megachurches in the U.S. were actively raising funds to support Ukrainians after the Russian invasion. But social media posts falsely claimed that “we haven’t seen a single American mega church offer anything to the Ukrainians.”

See “Megachurches in U.S. Are Supporting Ukraine Relief, Contrary to Social Media Posts” for more.

  • A video from 2019 showing Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un circulated with the false claim that it showed Putin meeting recently with the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in.

See “Old, Mislabeled Video Circulating Amid Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine” for more.

  • Former President Donald Trump is one of several Republican politicians to claim or suggest that President Joe Biden ended the “energy independence” America needs to stop relying on Russia for oil. But the U.S. has imported oil and other forms of energy from abroad, including from Russia, for many years. On March 8, Biden signed an executive order blocking new U.S. purchases of Russian oil and other energy.

See “Examining U.S. ‘Energy Independence’ Claims” for more.

  • Rothschild & Co. has an office in Moscow and has been operating in Russia since the mid-1990s. Yet posts on social media falsely claimed that Russia had barred the Rothschild banking family from doing business in the country. The claim is an adaptation of an old conspiracy theory about the family.

See “Rothschild & Co. Has Office in Russia, Contrary to Conspiracy Claim on Social Media” for more.

  • Hunter Biden served on the board of the Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma Holdings from 2014 to 2019. But Ted Nugent posted a Facebook meme falsely insinuating that Hunter’s payments from the company ended with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

See “Hunter Biden Left Ukrainian Company in 2019, Contrary to Ted Nugent Post” for more.

  • The U.S. Department of Defense’s Biological Threat Reduction Program has provided technical support to improve and protect Ukraine’s public health laboratories. Social media posts, however, falsely claimed the program created “bioweapons labs” that are being targeted by Russian forces as part of the invasion of Ukraine.

See “Social Media Posts Misrepresent U.S.-Ukraine Threat Reduction Program” for more.

  • “Bernie Gores” was not killed in Afghanistan in August, and he wasn’t the “first American casualty of the Ukraine crisis.” He doesn’t exist. But Facebook users were faked out by fabricated tweets that purported to show CNN announcing the death of the same man twice in six months. The photo of “Gores” used in both fake tweets was video gamer Jordie Jordan.

See “Bogus Tweet Spreads False Account of ‘First American Casualty’ in Ukraine” for more.

  • Putin and other officials repeatedly denied having plans to invade Ukraine in the run-up to the assault. They blamed the U.S., Ukraine and others for the tension, insisting that Russia was a “peaceful country” and that it was “not going to attack anyone.”

See “Russian Rhetoric Ahead of Attack Against Ukraine: Deny, Deflect, Mislead” for more.

We’ll update this list with new coverage as necessary.

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