Ukraine war: Viral conspiracy theories falsely claim the war is fake

March 1, 2023

False posts claimed President Zelensky’s personal bodyguard Maksym Donets (left) was his body double

The first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has led to a spike in false claims about the war on social media, with some posts gaining millions of engagements.

A number of US right-wing accounts with large followings posted a series of baseless claims that suggested the entire Ukraine war might be a hoax perpetrated by Western media and governments.

Those spreading the most viral claims included some who had previously been suspended from Twitter and allowed back onto the platform following Elon Musk’s takeover.

The war is not fake

Twitter screenshot

One false claim that has been gaining traction on Twitter and elsewhere suggested that the entire war has somehow been faked.

As evidence, some prominent right-wing accounts in the US cited the supposed lack of footage from the front line.

A commentator complained about “the lack of war footage” in a viral post, saying it “smacks of a scam”.

Another Twitter influencer with 1.4 million followers claimed there was “no footage” and “no detailed updates” of the war.

That post was later shared by former US national security adviser Michael Flynn, who added: “I double dare anyone to say he is wrong.”

However, the war in Ukraine has been well-documented.

Alongside eyewitness accounts, there’s been ample footage from the Ukrainian front line filed by the BBC and other global broadcasters who have also examined false narratives about some of the conflict’s key events. There’s also evidence from governments and agencies around the world that confirms that the war is real.

From its outset, social media has been full of videos of the war, many of which have been verified as genuine by journalists.

Damage to a Kyiv tower block was not faked

Photos of a Kyiv tower block after it had been hit by a Russian missile, and another after it had been repaired

Two days after Russia’s invasion, footage of a high-rise apartment building in Kyiv with a huge hole in it after it was hit by a missile was widely shared around the world. Reporters covered the aftermath of the damage in detail from the scene of the incident.

In the past few days, images of the block, which has since been repaired and partially reconstructed, went viral again on social media.

The image led to claims that either the block had never been hit, or that the entire war is a hoax, because – the argument went – it would be impossible to restore a building during an ongoing conflict.

A right-wing podcaster and anti-vaccine activist, whose previously banned account was recently reinstated by Twitter, was among those that shared the claim.

However, apart from regular Russian missile attacks, Kyiv has not been on the frontline of the war since late March 2022, when Russian forces withdrew from the city and its surroundings to focus on eastern Ukraine.

The process of the block’s repair and reconstruction began in May of last year, and has been reported in detail by Ukrainian outlets, coupled with images of the block under construction throughout the summer and autumn.

Misleading moving corpse video returns

Falsely captioned TV screenshot of a climate emergency demonstration

A video claiming to show a news reporter in Ukraine standing in front of rows of corpses in body bags, with one of the bodies “moving” has been viewed millions of times in the past few days.

It led to claims that it was “proof” of actors being hired to play dead bodies to support the Western narrative on the Ukraine war.

“Stop moving – you’re supposed to be dead! Psyop?” claimed a widely shared tweet by a right-wing account.

The video was shared with similar claims by several other right-wing influencers on Facebook and TikTok.

The video is taken from a report by Austrian newspaper Osterreich of a climate protest in Vienna in early February last year, before the Russian invasion had even begun, in which activists aimed to highlight the danger of carbon emissions to human life.

This video is not only false, it’s a repeat offender. It had previously been shared as “evidence” that Covid deaths had been faked. Then, as now, it is not what it claims to be.

Zelensky’s ‘body double’

TV screengrabs wrongly captioned to say Zelensky has a body double

Viral photos and a video shared online claim to show the “accidental” reveal of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s body double.

One claim, viewed by millions, is that the Ukrainian president has a “secret body double” who appeared by mistake in footage aired by Polish television, seemingly wearing the same outfit as the president.

Other posts show the same man in the background during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Kyiv last week.

However, the man in question is easily identifiable as Maksym Donets, Mr Zelensky’s personal bodyguard. According to Reuters, Mr Donets has been the head of the president’s security team since May 2019.

Images of him following the Ukrainian president around in public in different attire can be easily found online.

3 comments

  1. “One false claim that has been gaining traction on Twitter and elsewhere suggested that the entire war has somehow been faked.”

    This war is the most well-documented war ever. Virtually every soldier and civilian has a cellphone with a camera, and not to mention the countless journalists across the country, filming countless footage and photographing countless pictures. To even attempt denying its existence is insanity pure. But, we see that this species is capable of producing some very, very stupid individuals. And, of course, it’s on Shitter where you find a lot of them.

  2. If I could only round up these far right nutjobs, and somehow plop them down in the middle of Bakhmut, they might wake up, and stop listening to the blonde with the big mouth.

  3. It’s the same tactic as employed with US elementary school shootings. The right wing member’s desire to be in a group is far stronger than anything else. They know they are wrong, but they also know they are wrong together and that is what they desire.

    Grieving parents labeled as fake … it’s inhumane. But right wingers don’t care … as long as they have another one there with them.

    That they stand in defiance to facts … it is like a joke to them. Children dying is a joke to them. Rape, execution, torture, and death are all a joke to them because it’s not their identity being attacked and for their existence, that is all that matters.

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