Conspiracy theories aimed at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have been circulating on social media since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. One recent example, falsely attributed to a “Pentagon official,” is the unfounded claim that Zelensky is the cousin of billionaire philanthropist George Soros.
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.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered a barrage of false claims on social media, including posts that purport to show a video of “crisis actors” portraying dead victims of the fighting. The video used in the posts is from a climate protest held in Vienna, Austria, weeks before the war in Ukraine began.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has appeared in several recent videos that show he has remained in the country since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. But a post circulating on Facebook falsely claims 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.
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.
In late February, Republican Rep. Ted Budd described Russian President Vladimir Putin as “erratic,” a “thug” and “intelligent.” He also said Putin has “strategic reasons” for wanting to “protect” his country’s borders, but called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “evil” and pledged support for Ukrainians. But a new TV ad from Republican Pat McCrory cherry-picks from Budd’s remarks to claim the congressman “excuses Putin” for Russia’s deadly attack on 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.