Fact checks about countries

FALSE: Photos showing Putin and Zelenskiy during the 2022 Russia-Ukraine crisis

Rappler.com
FALSE: Photos showing Putin and Zelenskiy during the 2022 Russia-Ukraine crisis
All the photos were taken prior to the Russia-Ukraine war in 2022
At a glance
  • Claim: Russian president Vladimir Putin is photographed enjoying a vacation, while Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy is joining the army troops amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
  • Rating: FALSE
  • The facts: These photos were taken prior to the recent Russian military attack on Ukraine in 2022.
  • Why we fact-checked this: The TikTok video with this claim has 6.5 million views, more than 900,000 likes, 16,800 comments, and no less than 6,500 shares as of writing.
Complete details

A TikTok video by user “@jazepsmirs” displayed different photos comparing Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy supposedly during the current Ukraine-Russia war.

The video captioned, “The difference between Putin and Zelenskiy,” displayed pictures of Putin eating ice cream, fishing in a lake, and playing with dogs in the snow. The photos were accompanied by the text, “Putin during the war.”

Photos of Zelenskiy in military uniform joining troops were also showed. The text in this series of photos read, “Zelenskiy during the war.”

The video’s claim is false. These photos of Putin and Zelenskiy were not taken during the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

Using TinEye and Google Reverse Image Search, the first two photos of Putin eating an ice cream were in fact from two different years of the MAKS International Air Show. The first photo is from 2011, as revealed through descriptions of a stock photo from Alamy, a reputable British stock photo company. 

The second was from 2021, according to an Associated Press report that captioned the photo, “Russian President Vladimir Putin holds an ice-cream as he inspects new models of weapons at the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon.”

The third and fourth photos show Putin shirtless and fishing in a lake. These were from Putin’s trip to Siberia in August 2017. An ABC News article has reports on the news, along with the photos used in the TikTok video.

The last photo of Putin playing with two dogs in the snow is from 2013. The Moscow Times reported that the two dogs are his. The Kremlin released the photos on April 10, 2013, but said the photos were taken on March 24, 2013.

As for the photos of Zelenskiy, a Google reverse image search revealed that the first photo was taken in December 2021 during Zelenskiy’s visit to the Donetsk region. A report by The Guardian used the same photo.

The third photo of Zelenskiy in the TikTok video was from an April 2019 visit to the Donbas region. The photo is included in a CBS News article

The last photo showing Zelenskiy wearing a bulletproof vest under a blue button down is from his 2019 visit to Stanytsia Luhanska and Shchastya, towns in eastern Ukraine. The Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty used the photo for their report.

Zelenskiy’s second and fourth photo in the TikTok video were given context in a recent Agence France-Presse fact-check article debunking the same claim.

According to AFP, the second photo was published by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office on April 8, 2021 and can be found in an April 2021 The Guardian article reporting on Russian attacks on the eastern part of Ukraine. The fourth photo was used by the Sunday Times in an article. According to its caption, the photo was taken on April 8, 2021, during Zelenskiy’s visit to the Donbas region. – Ellen Dee Dego/Rappler.com

Ellen Dee Dego is a Rappler intern. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s internship program here.

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