FACT-CHECK: Russia Vs Ukraine: The Lies, Misinformation and Outright Propaganda
From time immemorial, propaganda has always been a weapon of war. It has most often been deployed as part of a broader strategy to make people think in a certain way because what the public thinks about war matters.
Mostly, these propaganda stunts are characterized by misinformation, disinformation and outright lies to which media pundits, journalists, political figures among other key actors play a major role.
During the first world war, stories about bad things the Germans had done were told to make people angry and frightened so everyone would want Britain to beat them in the war. But many tales were untrue and Germany told the same stories about Britain according to a recent BBC report.
In a New York Times Article, “How Hitler Pioneered ‘Fake News’,” writer, Timothy Snyder, alleged that Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, who began his career as a propagandist used propaganda to make the second world war possible by defining Jews as Germany’s foe.
Since the war broke out between Russia and Ukraine, a lot of misinformation has flooded the public space. Russian President Vladimir Putin even accused the western world of using media propaganda against the country.
The war began on Thursday February 24, 2022 after the Kremlin ordered its forces to enter Ukraine, following months of a heavy military build-up on the border.
PRNigeria takes a cursory look at the claims and counter claims associated with the face-off.
That President Buhari’s Threat to Intervene if Russia Refuses to Step Down Assault on Ukraine:
A viral social media claim states that President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria will intervene if Russia refuses to step down from her assault on Ukraine. The screenshot of breaking news which contains the picture of President Buhari has been making the rounds on social media platforms.
A check on President Muhammadu Buhari’s facebook and twitter official account did not reveal any statement of such nature. The result was the same with official accounts of Presidential Spokespersons investigated.
Findings reveal that there was no official statement or broadcast the image was created with an online tool called ‘break your own news.’ The tool allows users to create all sorts of news headlines and captions, alongside any kind of supporting image they deem fit.
Other Presidential Threats…
Other screenshot narratives claim that in the Ukraine- Russia tension, President Buhari had pledged Nigeria’s support to Ukraine. “Buhari: We are ready to help Ukraine,” the claim reads. Another claim states, “BUHARI WARNS: Russia should retrieve their mission from Ukraine or else they will hear from Nigeria, I and my people are ready.”
However, it was discovered that all similar images were created with web based applications intended for parody.
The “Heroic” Soldiers Confronted by a Russian Warship on Snake Island
An audio recording claims that Ukrainian soldiers keeping guard on Snake Island – a tiny piece of disputed land 300 kilometres west of Crimea, reportedly told a Russian warship to “go f*** yourself” before being killed in an attack.
The audio record portrayed a dialogue whereby the Russian Warship told the Ukranians to “lay down your weapons” to avoid bloodshed and unjustified death but the “heroic” Ukrainian soldiers replied, “Russian Warship, go f*** yourself.”
Ukraine initially said it would posthumously honour the 13 border guards stationed on the island, as reported by the ABC, but an official later said the country had reason to believe all soldiers who had been on the island were alive shortly after video footage emerged of the Russians giving food and water to the 82, not 13 men who were then being transferred to Crimea.
The Professional Walking Tour Guide, John McGroary, that Organized a 6KM “Walk for Ukraine” Protest:
Donegal Online, an online public news, media, and events social media page on facebook claimed that a professional walking guide, John McGroary, has organized a 6km “walk for Ukraine” in solidarity with the Russian invasion of the former Soviet State. It further requested donations for Ukranians through the Irish Red Cross Ukraine Appeal.
The claim reads:
“WALK FOR UKRAINE
Professional Waking Tour Guide;John McGroary is organising a Walk For Ukraine this Saturday on the Bluestacks. While working with the UN in Cyprus in 2015/16, he became a close friend with Ukrainian Peacekeeper Mykhailo Maihur who is married with two young children, 7 & 5. They live in Kiev and John is in daily contact with him.
The walk on Saturday is at 10am. from Letterbarrow Football Field at Tymeen up to the Bluestack windmills and back. (6km approx. All on road & track).
No money collected on the day. Just a request to donate to the Irish Red Cross Ukraine Appeal, via this link. https://donorbox.org/ukraine-crisis “
PRNigeria ran a google reverse image search of the photo associated with the claim which turns out that it was a photo of a wounded woman who was seen after and airstrike damaged an apartment complex in the city of Chuhuiv, Kharkiv which was taken by a Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency which was sourced on Getty Images – a popular visual media company that supplies stock images.
However, a social media investigation of the name John McGroary revealed a profile which shared similar claim in different wording but the same context. So PRNigeria subjected the request for donation link to a website verification test which reveals that the Irish Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal url on its original website was embedded to the donorbox – a fundraising platform which embeds directly to the website or as a pop-up – link shared by the claims.
While the claim made use of an accompanying gory photo of a Ukrainian resident who was victim of an airstrike, the links used are verified. The post therefore appears to be a coordinated network operation targeted at garnering sympathy donations for the Ukrainian cause.
The Defiant Ukrainian President Zelensky in Full Military Gear:
As the war in Ukraine rages with Russian bombers targeting several cities, a photo surfaced showing combat ready President Volodymyr Zelensky, in full military gear, allegedly in the frontline after Russia invaded the neighbouring country.
The picture, shared Feb. 25 on Facebook, accrued over 19,000 shares in three days. Several users in the comments praised Zelenskiy for purportedly fighting with the Ukrainian military.
The same photo and claim have gained traction across platforms.
A Feb. 25 tweet received almost 3,000 retweets in three days. Other posts on Facebook with the same photo claim Zelenskyy “put on a military uniform to join the troops” fighting Russian forces.
Keyword search reveals that the picture was taken and released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on April 9, 2021. It shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky walking on the front line with Russia backed separatists in Mariupol region.
Mariupol is located in the eastern part of Ukraine.
The Horrifying Explosion in Ukraine
Several people shared a video of a massive explosion. The claim along with it was that this happened in Ukraine amid the ongoing crisis.
This video of the explosion, shared by many, mentioned words like “Massive explosion at Ukraine”, and the hashtag #RussiaUkraineConflict.
It turns out that this claim is misleading. The video has nothing to do with the ongoing Ukraine-Russia crisis. The video, about five years old, belongs to a Ukrainian military store.
With the help of the InVid tool and a retrieval image search, we found a video of a similar explosion on a website called Popular Mechanics. The website contained the video and a report published on September 27, 2017. The report noted that it was an explosion at a Ukrainian bullet dump in Vinnytsia, about 160 miles southwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
“Explosions in Ukraine by Russians”
Social media users are claiming a viral video shows an explosion in Ukraine after Russian forces invaded.
A Facebook post shared Feb. 23 shows a massive ball of fire exploding in the air and witnesses making a commotion in the background.
“Explosion in Ukraine (sic) today by the Russians,” reads the caption of the post.
Similar claims have spread recently on Facebook. An 8-minute livestream that generated over 1,700 interactions and 800 shares shows several scenes of this explosion looped in with other footage. A Feb. 24 tweet with the same video and claim amassed over 42,000 views.
But the claim is false. The video shows an explosion in China that took place in 2015.
The video in the Facebook post shows one out of a series of explosions that occurred at Tianjin, an industrial city in China, on Aug. 12, 2015. American survivor Dan Van Duren captured the video, which can be found on NBC News, BBC News and The Guardian.
The Russian Tanker That Crushed Civilians
A disturbing 25-second clip that purportedly shows a Russian armored vehicle intentionally running over a civilian in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital surfaced on Social Media.
“Russian tank swerves to crush Ukrainian car,” reads the caption of a Feb. 25 Facebook video.
The video, which generated more than 1.3 million views and 22,000 reactions within a few days, shows what appears to be an armored vehicle taking a sharp turn to flatten a car driving down the road.
Multiple news organizations, as well as an eyewitness, have confirmed the authenticity of the footage. But some details remain unclear.
While some military experts say it’s “rather impossible” to know whether the armored vehicle was operated by Russians or Ukrainians other sources argued that the tanker actually belonged to the Ukranians as Russian Tanks are marked with YZs. However, the occupant of the vehicle survived.
The Ukrainian Man Bidding his Daughter Tearful Goodbye
A video of a father separating from his daughter was shared on the electronic press and on social media. According to reports, the father is Ukrainian and is preparing to fight in the war against Russia.
However, the man pictured in the video is a resident of the town of Gorlovka, which belongs to the separatist-controlled Donetsk region, and is saying goodbye to his family moving to Rostov, Russia.
The original video was taken by a local in the city of Gorlovka in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region on February 21, 2022, about twenty-four hours before the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine, and had not been declared repatriated.
Ukrainian Fighter Pilots Shooting Down Six Jets
Amid unconfirmed claims that a Ukrainian fighter pilot shot down six Russian jets on Thursday, viral video footage purporting to show the individual in action has been shown to be fake.
According to one viral post, the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ downed two SU-35s, one SU-27, one MiG-29 and two SU-25s.
It remains unclear whether the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ actually exists but Snopes’ Dan Evon – a writer with Snopes.com – clarifies that the video in fact depicts a scene from Digital Combat Simulator, a free-to-play combat-simulation video game.
Evon explains that the video was first posted by YouTube user Comrade_Corb, who clearly states that the footage is not real.
Comrade_Corb’s YouTube caption reads: “This footage is from DCS, but is nevertheless made out of respect for ‘The Ghost of Kiev.’ If he is real, may God be with him; if he is fake, I pray for more like ‘him.'”
While the list of disinformation associated with the Russia vs Ukraine crisis seems inexhaustible, it is expedient that the audience always have a second look at the kind of media information they consume in crisis situations like this.
The war dubbed “Special Military Operation,” against Ukraine by President Putin, has so far triggered swift condemnation by several countries, immediate sanctions by the United States and other countries targeting Russian banks, oil refineries, and military exports, and marathon emergency talks at the UN Security Council (UNSC).
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