Russia-Ukraine Disinformation Tracking Center: 200+ Websites Spreading War Disinformation And The Top Myths They Publish

NewsGuard has identified 201 Russia-Ukraine disinformation sites and is tracking the top false narratives that they are publishing about the war in Ukraine

By Alex Cadier, Madeline Roache, Sophia Tewa, Chine Labbe, Virginia Padovese, Roberta Schmid, Edward O’Reilly, Marie Richter, Karin König, McKenzie Sadeghi and Chiara Vercellone.

Last updated: May 13, 2022

Months before Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, false narratives about Ukraine and its allies, many promoted by the Kremlin’s disinformation apparatus, were already proliferating online. From false claims of Ukrainian genocide directed at Russian-speaking Ukrainians, to assertions that Nazi ideology is driving Ukraine’s political leadership, these claims were used to justify Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

As support for the Ukrainian government rose, Kyiv has made use of social media platforms and messaging apps to push back against the Kremlin’s disinformation machine. However, a growing stream of anti-Russia misinformation has also spread online. Some pro-Ukrainian sites and scores of social media users have shared false posts about the war, ranging from manipulated images of the mythical Ghost of Kyiv to misleading footage of alleged Russian attacks.

Tracking 201 Top Russia-Ukraine Disinformation Sites

  • English-language websites: 75
  • French-language websites: 42
  • German-language websites: 21
  • Italian-language websites: 21
  • Other : 42

To date, NewsGuard’s team has identified and is tracking 201 domains some with a history of publishing false, pro-Russia propaganda and disinformation — that have promoted false claims about the Russian-Ukraine conflict. These websites include official Russian state media sources of the kind that some of the digital platforms have temporarily sanctioned since the onset of the Russian invasion. But many websites that are not official propaganda arms of the Russian government and are not being sanctioned by the platforms also promote false claims supporting the government of Vladimir Putin. These sources include anonymous websites, foundations, and research websites with uncertain funding—at least some of which may have undisclosed links to the Russian government.

 The three most influential among websites known to be funded and operated by the Russian government are the state media sources RT, TASS, and Sputnik News. Below are links to NewsGuard’s Nutrition Labels for these three sources:

NewsGuard’s team is monitoring these and the dozens of other sites that we have identified as those that spread Russia-Ukraine disinformation narratives, including the top myths cited in this report. As noted above, as new myths and disinformation sources are identified, we will update this report accordingly.

Russia employs a multi-layered strategy to introduce, amplify, and spread false and distorted narratives across the world — relying on a mix of official state media sources, anonymous websites and accounts, and other methods to distribute propaganda that advances the Kremlin’s interests and undermines its adversaries. Its government-funded and operated websites use digital platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok to launch and promote false narratives. NewsGuard has been tracking these sources and methods since 2018. and licenses its data about Russian propaganda efforts to the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Cyber Command, and other government and defense entities.

In 2020, the U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center, citing NewsGuard’s reporting and data, outlined key components of these efforts in its report, “Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem.”

While Russia’s disinformation firepower has meant that pro-Russia disinformation remains dominant, anti-Russia or pro-Ukraine disinformation, occasionally shared by Ukrainian authorities, has also started to emerge. These narratives tend to paint a triumphant picture of Ukrainian armed forces while making unsubstantiated anti-Russia claims.

For example, videos of the “Ghost of Kyiv”, a Ukrainian fighter pilot alleged to have shot down six Russia military jets, were spread to millions on TikTok and other platforms. Days later, it emerged that the footage originated from a video game and that there is no evidence to support the existence of the “Ghost of Kyiv”.

Researchers, platforms, advertisers, government agencies, or other institutions interested in accessing the full list of domains can contact us here: Request domain list.

Top Russia-Ukraine war myths:

These myths are listed in the order in which NewsGuard’s analysts disproved them, with newest entries at the top.

MYTH: Poland is preparing to invade Western Ukraine.

THE FACTS: In early May, multiple social media posts shared a fake BBC News clip announcing that Poland was preparing to invade Ukraine. The one-minute video, which the BBC never aired, was shared online in a number of languages, including Russian, French, Italian, Polish, Czech, and Turkish.

In fact, the video was fabricated to look like a BBC news report. Shayan Sardarizadeh, a BBC journalist reporting on misinformation, shared a screenshot of the clip in a May 5, 2022 Twitter post, with the comment: “Another fake video with the logo and branding of BBC News is making the rounds… The BBC has made no such video and Poland is not about to get involved in the war.” There has been no evidence that Poland, a member of NATO and the European Union, was preparing to invade Ukraine.

The video opens with the BBC news logo and footage of a military helicopter landing. The text, which is written in the same font used by the BBC, read, “Polish commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces ordered the army to prepare for an invasion of Ukraine,” with footage of troops in the background. The video also said, “Poland is going to send in troops under the pretext of ‘protection from Russia.’ This will be done with the endorsement of Washington, but the North Atlantic Alliance will officially stand aside.”

The clip also featured a fabricated military order. The clip said, “General Jaroslaw Mika signed an order to put the Polish army unit in full combat readiness.” A photo of the fake order was used in posts on social media and in articles on pro-Russian news sites, including Pravda.ru.

In a May 3, 2022, post on Twitter, the Polish General Command of the Armed Forces wrote: “This is a false order of the Polish General Staff. The whole document is FAKE! We observe more and more such counterfeit military documents in Polish mass media. Please, DO NOT share this FAKE NEWS.”

MYTH: Ukraine is selling surplus weapons to African countries.

THE FACTS: On April 19, 2022, the Kremlin-linked Telegram channel Rezident published a fake document from Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, dated March 29, 2022, which purportedly showed that Ukraine was selling surplus weapons to African countries. The false claim was shared by pro-Kremlin Telegram channels, including Denazification UA (“Denatsifikatsii UA”) and news sites such as News-Front.info.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a Sweden-based defense think-tank, Ukraine exported a “significant volume” of major conventional weapons to sub-Saharan Africa from 2005 to 2009, including surplus aircraft, artillery, and armored vehicles. However, there is no evidence that the deal outlined by the Rezident channel was real or that Ukraine is currently selling weapons to African countries. 

The Rezident Telegram post claimed that among the weapons sold to African countries were “armored vehicles, tanks, submachine guns, rifles, grenades and even body armor.” It said that the sale amounted to a “cunning scheme of enrichment,” adding that, “While the Ukrainian military is dying from a shortage of weapons and ammunition, Defense Ministry officials are selling it to African countries under the guise of ‘surplus.’” 

The fake document shared by the Rezident channel cites Amendment Number 1919 from the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, introduced in 2001, which allows the ministry to sell surplus weapons to other nations. The document also claimed that NVK Techimpex, a private manufacturer of military equipment and weapons in Ukraine, was selling the surplus weapons, citing an alleged 970-page report that outlines the deal. 

That document contains obvious signs of forgery. While the letterhead mirrors the official Defense Ministry documents, the alleged signature of Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov differs from his usual signature. Additionally, the document was signed with “A.YU. Reznikov,” which is the Russian spelling of the minister’s name. The Ukrainian spelling, which the minister uses in official documents, is “O.YU. Reznikov.” The document does not include a barcode or an address after the name of a People’s Deputy of Ukraine, which does not comply with the Ministry of Defense’s rules of document circulation. 

MYTH: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has an estimated net worth of $850 million. He accumulated his wealth after he was elected.

THE FACTS: On April 25, 2022, the far-right Forum for Democracy party in the Netherlands claimed without evidence on Telegram and Twitter: “Zelensky owns a fortune: Various estimates put it at around 850 million. He didn’t get most of this until after he took office as president.” Shortly after these postings, a flurry of social media posts and Russian-state news sites including Sputnik News and RIA-Novosti amplified the allegation, citing as a source the Forum for Democracy party, whose leader Thierry Baudet is reported to have close ties to the Kremlin.

Other articles published in April 2022, including a story headlined “In the Netherlands, they are interested in the origin of Zelensky’s $850 million income” on the Russian-language channel of state-owned RT,  referenced an April 2022 segment from Fox News host Tucker Carlson, in which he suggested Zelensky’s finances be audited. Other social media posts claimed Zelensky was worth $1.4 billion.

The figures referenced in these claims are unfounded and not supported by credible estimates of Zelensky’s fortune. In fact, news reports and financial disclosures suggest that he was worth between $20 million and $30 million, as of April 2022.

According to reporting by Forbes Ukraine, Zelensky “never was a billionaire” and he is worth approximately $20 million. Additional reporting by Forbes U.S. puts that number at less than $30 million, with his main asset being a 25 percent stake in Kvartal 95, a comedy studio he co-founded in 2003. Most of his net worth derived from his past career as an entertainer and comedian.

Zelensky transferred his stake in Kvartal 95 to his business partners before winning Ukraine’s presidential election, Forbes U.S. reported, valuing his stake in the company at $11 million. Forbes estimated that his real estate portfolio is worth $4 million. Forbes U.S. and Forbes Ukraine both estimated that he and his wife Olena Zelenska hold roughly $2 million in a joint bank account, and that their other assets, including cars and jewelry, are worth $1 million at most. 

Zelensky’s most recent financial disclosures similarly do not show that his net worth is in the hundreds of millions. He reported a family income of roughly $751,388  (22,748 million hryvnias) for 2020, according to a press statement and his asset declaration in the National Agency on Corruption Prevention. His financial disclosure shows that he received $11,000 (336,000 hryvnias) in salary, $152,000 (4.6 million hryvnias) in royalties, and $442,000 (13.4 million hryvnias) from real estate sales that year. That puts his total income for 2020 at roughly $605,000.

MYTH: Google Maps revealed uncensored satellite images of Russian military sites in April 2022 during the Russia-Ukraine war, which were previously blurred. The change was meant to help Russia’s enemies better assess the Russian military’s capabilities and advances.

THE FACTS: On April 17, 2022, Ukraine-based defense news website Defense Express published an article that falsely claimed that Google Maps had unveiled “high-quality” satellite images of several Russian military bases and “strategic points.” Defense Express said that the move by Google presented an opportunity to assess the Russian military’s progress and resources, including aircraft carriers and ammunition storages. The article included photos of several purported Russian military facilities. 

The next day, an unverified and now-deleted account for the Ukrainian Armed Forces (@ArmedForcesUkr) tweeted that Google Maps had “opened access” to Russia’s military facilities, allowing people to see for the first time “a variety of Russian launchers, intercontinental ballistic missile mines, command posts and secret landfills with a resolution of about 0.5 meters per pixel.” 

In fact, Google has not changed its publicly available satellite imagery in Russia. On April 18, 2022, Google Maps’ official Twitter account stated “please note that we haven’t made any blurring changes to our satellite imagery in Russia.”

Google Maps has occasionally blurred satellite imagery for sensitive military areas, such as the French military’s Air Base 705, which has been pixelated since 2014. The BBC reported in 2018 that European countries including Germany and Belgium have asked Google Maps to blur its military sites. However, there is no evidence that Google previously blurred images of military sites at the request of Russia. In fact, a NewsGuard analysis found that for years, Google has provided detailed satellite images of the Russian locations mentioned in @ArmedForcesUkr’s tweet.

For example, the first image featured in the Ukrainian forces’ tweet shows several aircraft stationed at an outdoor field in the Kursk-Khalino airbase — home to about two dozen fighter jets in 2021. Google Earth’s Historical Imagery feature, which allows users to access past versions of Google Maps’ satellite imagery, shows that Google has provided unblurred, detailed imagery of the base since at least 2003. (Google Maps and Google Earth share the same satellite images.)

Another image shows a large red ship and at least four submarines in Krasheninnikov Bay in the Pacific Ocean. The port is near a ballistic nuclear submarine base in the Kamchatka Peninsula that housed submarines with nuclear capabilities during the Cold War. Google Earth has provided clear satellite images of the site since at least 2013.

Commenting on the claim that Google Maps recently unblurred these images, Rob Lee, a senior fellow of the Eurasia program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, tweeted on April 18, 2022, that he’s “always been able to look at Russian military facilities with Google Maps, including its most elite special operations units’ bases …”

MYTH: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukrainians to surrender.

THE FACTS: On March 16, 2022, Ukrainian TV channel Ukraine 24 broadcast a video purporting to show Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ordering Ukrainians to surrender to Russia. In the video, Zelensky appeared to say, “My advice to you is to lay down arms and return to your families. It is not worth it dying in this war. My advice to you is to live. I am going to do the same.” The clip was posted to YouTube, Telegram, Facebook and Russian social network Vkontakte.

In fact, the video was a “deepfake,” which is a visual or audible manipulation of a person or object saying and doing something that is fabricated. Zelensky did not call on Ukrainians to surrender. Shortly after the deepfake was published, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry published on Twitter a video of the real Zelensky, who called the clip a “childish provocation” and said: “We are not going to lay down any weapons until our victory.” 

Nina Schick, a tech expert and author of “Deepfakes: The Coming Infocalypse” said that the video looked like “an absolutely terrible faceswap,” referring to programs that digitally paste one person’s face onto another’s body, Reuters reported on March 17, 2022. The video showed discrepancies between the skin tone of Zelensky’s neck and face, and pixelation around his head, which was disproportionately large. His voice was also deeper than his usual tone.

Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of security policy at Facebook parent Meta, said that the company removed the clip for violating its policy against misleading manipulated media. In a March 16, 2022, Twitter post, Gleicher wrote that “our teams identified and removed a deepfake video claiming to show President Zelensky issuing a statement he never did.”

Ukraine 24 said in a March 16, 2022, Facebook post that the video was broadcast by “enemy hackers” and was “FAKE!”. The video also briefly appeared on Ukraine 24’s website.

MYTH: NATO military advisors are hiding out in a subterranean NATO bioweapons laboratory called PIT-404, which is financed by Metabiota, a company affiliated with Hunter Biden. The lab is located underneath the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, Ukraine.

THE FACTS: In early April 2022, numerous blogswebsites known to promote Russian disinformation, and social media users spread stories claiming that a secret NATO bioweapons lab is located underneath the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, Ukraine. Many claimed that NATO military advisers were hiding in the lab, often called “PIT-404.” Some also claimed that the lab was financed by Metabiota, a company with connections to Hunter Biden. This claim has been made in several languages, including RussianEnglish, Italian, and French.

The Azovstal Iron and Steel Works became the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces during the siege of the city, which began in late February 2022. However, there is no evidence that there is a NATO bioweapons lab sheltering NATO military advisers underneath the steel plant. The social media users and websites that made this claim did not provide any credible evidence to support it. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, and the organization says that it does not have any military bases in Ukrainian territory.

Azovstal Director General Enver Tskitishvili issued a denial about the claims in an April 12, 2022, Facebook post. “There are no secret tunnels with biochemical laboratories in Azovstal,” he wrote. “The plant did not have and does not have anything to do with the development or storage of any weapons, including biochemical ones. Our company has never researched or manufactured anything like this.”

A Metabiota spokesperson told The Washington Post in March 2022 that the company no longer operates in Ukraine, saying, “Metabiota worked in Ukraine until 2020, providing training to help improve local capacity to detect and respond to health threats.” Metabiota and Hunter Biden have had no association since 2015, The Washington Post reported. Biden was on the management team of one of Metabiota’s investors, Rosemont Seneca Technology Partners (now called Pilot Equity Group), but was pushed out of the firm in 2015 after being discharged from the Navy Reserve for cocaine use the previous year.

There is also no evidence of a business relationship between Metabiota, an American company that advises governments and businesses on epidemics, and the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works.

The claim that there is a NATO bioweapons lab beneath Azovstal follows similar claims made by Russian officials and Russian state-owned media outlets about U.S. bioweapons labs in Ukraine going back to at least 2018, for which there is also no credible evidence.

MYTH: A secret document called the “Chancellor’s File” proves that NATO planned a war against Russia decades ago.

THE FACTS: On March 24, 2022, German author and filmmaker Ralph T. Niemeyer shared on his Telegram channel and Facebook account a photo of a letter, claiming that it proved that “NATO planned the war against Russia long in advance and forced Chancellor Scholz to approve it in January. Long before President Putin invaded anywhere.” The post claimed that this information could be found “in the Chancellor’s File.” The claim has been widely shared by pro-Russian and QAnon Telegram channels, accumulating more than 250,000 views on the messaging service as of April 2022. Similar posts appeared on other social network platforms, including Facebook.

The claim that NATO planned a war against Russia long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, is baseless.

German fact-checking organization Mimikama reported in April 2022 that the document posted by Niemeyer on Telegram was falsified. According to Mimikama, the letter first appeared on the website of the far-right magazine Unabhängige Nachrichten in 1999, supposedly addressed to Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service and purporting to be from “Minister of State Dr. Rickermann.” In fact, Germany never had a Minister of State named Rickermann. (Unabhängige Nachrichten described the letter as a “teaser” — or excerpt — for a book written by somebody named “James Shirley.” Such a book never made it to print.)

Ten years after the publication of the book’s teaser, Unabhängige Nachrichten published another article on the subject. This time, the publication reported that it “could not prove the authenticity of the information. All inquiries about a certain Dr. James Shirley, who is supposed to have reported on this in a book, were unsuccessful…”

The letter claimed that Germany had signed a secret treaty with the Western allies after World War II that supposedly required every German chancellor to sign an agreement called the “Chancellor’s File.”

On Nov. 19, 2007, in response to a question about whether then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel “had to sign the Chancellor’s File,” the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government issued a statement saying: “The ‘secret state treaty’ you mention belongs to the realm of legends. This state treaty does not exist. And the Chancellor, of course, did not have to sign a so-called ‘Chancellor’s File’ by order of the Allies before taking her oath of office.”

According to Mimikama, the letter that some contend proves that NATO has long planned a war against Russia contains several spelling mistakes and other errors. The letterhead seems to indicate that it comes from the German Federal Intelligence Service, but Mimikama noted that in 1992, the agency was not yet using that letterhead. Moreover, as noted above, Germany has never had a Minister of State named “Rickermann.”

As for the war in Ukraine, NATO has helped fund Ukraine’s armed forces, and some of its member countries began sending weapons to Ukraine in mid-January 2022, ahead of Russia’s invasion. NATO itself has not engaged militarily, because Ukraine is not a member of the alliance.

MYTH: Russia does not use the type of missile that was employed to attack the Kramatorsk train station.

THE FACTS: On April 8, 2022, missiles struck a railway station in Kramatorsk, a city in eastern Ukraine. At least 50 people were killed, according to Ukrainian officials. The UN said on April 8, 2022, that the attack “killed and injured scores of civilians.”

Russia and Ukraine both said that Tochka-U, a short-range ballistic missile, was used in the attack, but they blamed each other.

Russia claimed that only Ukrainian forces use Tochka-U missiles. The Russian Defense Ministry said in an April 8, 2022, statement posted on Telegram: “All statements by representatives of the Kyiv nationalist regime about the ‘rocket attack’ allegedly carried out by Russia on April 8 at the railway station in the city of Kramatorsk are a provocation and are absolutely untrue.” The statement continued, “We emphasize that Tochka-U tactical missiles, fragments of which were found near the Kramatorsk railway station and published by eyewitnesses, are used only by the Ukrainian armed forces.”

It is true that Ukraine uses Tochka-U missiles, but so does Russia, according to experts. Patrick Wilcken, an arms control researcher at Amnesty International, told NewsGuard in an email interview that “both Ukraine and Russia have the Tochka.” He added, “We have seen Russia deploying the [Tochka] system in Ukraine and documented an indiscriminate attack by Russia near a hospital building in Vuhledar, in Donetsk involving a 9M79 Tochka ballistic missile.”

On March 29, 2022, the Belarusky Hayun, an activist group that monitors military activity in Belarus, posted a video showing a column of Tochka missiles marked with the letter V, moving north of Kyiv. According to the Ukrainian fact-checking group StopFake, V and Z are the two Latin script letters used to indicate that equipment belongs to the Russian army.

The Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti and other pro-Russia media  that claimed that Ukraine struck Kramatorsk cited the similarity between a serial number on a Tochka-U missile found at the train station and other missiles launched by Ukraine in previous years. They obtained the serial number from a still of a video on the Italian TV channel TG-LA 7.

An April 9, 2022, article by RIA-Novosti quoted a Telegram post by the Donetsk TV channel Z Union, which said: “The serial number of the Tochka-U rocket that fell on the train station in Kramatorsk the day before appeared on the Web. Rocket 9M79-1, serial number Ш91579. Previously, Ukrainian militants used rockets from the same series.” The article shared the Z Union’s post, which listed missiles carrying a similar serial number, allegedly used by the Ukrainian army in 2015.

In fact, the serial number does not prove that the missiles used in Kramatorsk belonged to the Ukrainian army. StopFake wrote on April 10, 2022: “This serial number – Ш91579 – is a factory marking and does not in any way identify the missile as belonging to the Ukrainian military.”

Wilcken of Amnesty International told NewsGuard that he agreed with this assessment. “A factory production number says nothing about which military these missiles originate from, it just tells you which factory manufactured the missile,” he said. “Only through analysis of the blast site to determine direction/trajectory of the missile and a mapping of the positions of different forces in relation to the assumed trajectory could one be absolutely certain of who fired this missile, but Russian provenance seems likely.”

MYTH: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) helped carry out forced evacuations of Ukrainians to Russia.

THE FACTS: On March 24, 2022, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, met with Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow. The Turkish Anadolu Agency reported the same day that Maurer had asked Lavrov for permission to open an office in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, near Ukraine’s eastern border, and social media posts and online commentary began accusing the ICRC of supporting or participating in the forced transportation of Ukrainians to Russia.

There is no credible evidence that the ICRC helped organize forced evacuations of Ukrainians to Russia. The ICRC has repeatedly denied this charge, publishing a press release on March 26, 2022, on its website stating that “The ICRC does not ever help organize or carry out forced evacuations.”

Twitter users have issued posts claiming to show evidence of ICRC assistance in the deportation of Ukrainians to Russia. One March 26, 2022, post containing a link to a YouTube video claimed to show that “Mariupol residents fleeing west are stopped by Russian troops, forced onto Red Cross buses to Russia.” The video showed a traffic jam with people standing around outside of cars and buses displaying the Red Cross symbol, but did not actually show Russian soldiers forcing people onto buses.

In fact, the video was originally published on Twitter earlier the same day by the governor of the Donetsk administrative region, Pavlo Kirilenko, who made no mention of anyone being forced onto Red Cross buses to Russia. The only buses he mentioned were “evacuation buses that transport people from Berdyansk to Zaporizhia,” a city under Ukrainian control.

Other Twitter users posted screenshots of a report on Russian Red Cross activity titled “Evacuation of people from Donbas area to Russia” that was briefly published and then deleted from the website of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), suggesting that the report showed ICRC participation in the evacuation of Ukrainians to Russia. One post suggested that a screenshot showing the phrase “Assisted by RCRC Movement: 9,000” was proof of this. Other screenshots showed descriptions of arrangements made to accommodate displaced persons arriving in Russia from Ukraine, but did not indicate that the Russian Red Cross had participated in the transportation of Ukrainians to Russia.

The IFRC denied that either it or the Russian Red Cross participated in the transport of Ukrainians to Russia on its stating on its website: “Neither the IFRC nor the Russian Red Cross have ever been engaged in any movement of people from Ukraine into Russia.” In an April 2022 email to NewsGuard, the IFRC’s interim communications director, Benoît Carpentier, stated: “Regarding the 9,000 people assisted, this refers to the number of people who have crossed the border between Ukraine and Russia and received assistance from the Russian Red Cross. Neither the IFRC nor the Russian Red Cross are involved in people’s transportation.”

The report was deleted because it “referred to parts of Ukraine in a manner not aligned with our neutrality and impartiality,” the IFRC explained on its site, alluding to the report’s use of the terms “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics,” the chosen names of the two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine recognized only by Russia as of April 2022.

MYTH: Classified documents show Ukraine was preparing an offensive operation against the Donbas.

THE FACTS: On March 9, 2022, the Russian government falsely claimed that classified documents obtained by the Russian Defense Ministry showed that Ukraine was preparing an attack on Donbas in March 2022. A March 9, 2022, post on Twitter and Facebook by the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry shared  photos of the documents in Ukrainian with the comment, “Classified documents (order by the Commander National Guard of Ukraine) acquired by @mod_russia confirm without a shadow of a doubt: the Kyiv regime was covertly preparing an offensive operation against #Donbass, scheduled for March 2022.” Twitter added a label to the post, warning users that “This media is presented out of context.”

These claims were repeated uncritically by various news sites, including the Russian state news agency Tass. A March 10, 2022, article in Einreich.de, a pro-Russian German site that NewsGuard has found to have repeatedly published false content, claimed that Russia prevented Ukraine’s planned attack on the Donbas region in March 2022.

In fact, according to StopFake, a Ukrainian fact-checking organization, the document is not classified and contains no mention of a planned offensive. The Ukrainian National Guard (NSU) told StopFake that the document is not secret, and that it has nothing to do with Donbas. “This is a standard order for regular joint training camps of the AFU [Armed Forces of Ukraine] and NSU [National Guard of Ukraine] in Starychy (Lviv Region). Such orders are issued regularly every year. This document is about organizing a training camp” in Lviv, the NSU told StopFake. Lviv is located in Western Ukraine — on the opposite side of the country from Donbas.

Christo Grozev, the executive director of Bellingcat, an online investigative journalism organization, told PolitiFact that while the Donbas region was mentioned in the document, it was neither “a prominent part of the document nor stated in an offensive context, both of which were alleged in the misleading Russian presentation.”

MYTH: The massacre of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, was staged.

THE FACTS: In early April, 2022, multiple news organizations, including Reuters, The Associated Press, and AFP, documented the killing of civilians in Bucha, a city near the capital Kyiv, that had been under Russian occupation for about a month, beginning on Feb. 27, 2022. Various news organizations spoke with residents in Bucha after the Russian army left. They all said that Russians were responsible for the killings of civilians.

The Russian government disputed these accounts. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in an April 3, 2022, statement, “not a single local resident has suffered from any violent action.” On April 3, 2022, the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry shared on Telegram a statement by the Russian Defense Ministry, which claimed that “the photos and video footage from Bucha are another hoax, a staged production and provocation by the Kyiv regime for the Western media.”

On April 3, 2022, the Russian Ministry of Defense shared on Telegram a slowed-down version of a video that was originally published by Ukrainian TV channel, Espreso.tv. The Telegram post claimed that one body was seen raising its arm and another was seen sitting down, proving that they were alive. “The video of the bodies is confusing: here at the 12th second the ‘corpse’ on the right is moving his arm. At 30th second in the rear view mirror the ‘corpse’ sits down,” the post stated. “The bodies in the video seem to have been deliberately laid out to create a more dramatic picture.”

In fact, the video did not show one of the corpses raising its arm. Shayan Sardarizadeh, a BBC journalist who covers online disinformation, published an even more slowed-down version of the video on Twitter, provided by international fact-checking group Aurora Intel. Sardarizadeh noted that the video, which was reviewed by NewsGuard, showed that a mark or a raindrop on the screen had created the false impression of the body moving in low-resolution clips.

The video also did not show a corpse “sitting down,” as Russian officials claimed. According to Sardarizadeh, the “slowed down version shows the buildings in the background being distorted by a rearview mirror. Add social media compression and the video gives the impression the body is moving.” This same phenomenon was also demonstrated by Finnish fact-checker Janne Ahlberg.

An April 4, 2022, review of videos and satellite imagery conducted by The New York Times showed that many of the dead civilians lying on the streets of Bucha were killed in mid-March 2022, when Russia, by its own account, was in control of Bucha. One video filmed by a local council member on April 1, 2022, showed multiple dead bodies strewn along Yablonska Street in Bucha, according to the Times. Satellite images provided to the newspaper by Maxar Technologies, a Colorado-based space technology company, showed that at least 11 of the bodies appeared on the streets of Bucha between March 9 and 11, 2022, and therefore were likely killed during that time period.

Additionally, residents in Bucha told Human Rights Watch that civilians were killed by Russians in March 2022. In an April 3 2022 report, the international human rights organization stated that Russian forces in Bucha rounded up five men and summarily executed one of them on March 4, 2022.

MYTH: The U.S. is developing bioweapons designed to target ethnic Russians.

THE FACTS: Shortly after the start of the Russian invasion, Russian officials made multiple public allegations that military biological programs run by the U.S. and its NATO allies in Ukraine were using dangerous pathogens to create bioweapons that could only infect “ethnic Slavs.”

Igor Kirillov, head of the radiation, chemical, and biological defense department of the Russian Armed Forces, said during a briefing on March 10, 2022, that labs in Ukraine were working on dangerous pathogens custom-designed to target Russians and other ethnic Slavs.

“The available documents confirm numerous cases of the transfer of biological samples of Ukrainian citizens abroad. We can say with a high probability that one of the goals of the United States and its allies is the creation of bioagents capable of selectively infecting various ethnic groups,” Kirillov said, citing as an example a report that researchers in Ukraine had sent blood serum samples to the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, a medical research facility in Australia.

In response to the Kremlin’s allegations, a Peter Doherty Institute spokeswoman told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that it had received about 300 serum samples from Ukraine in 2019, to be used in measles research. The spokeswoman explained that receiving samples from other labs was “routine practice for the success of this public health initiative.” There is no evidence that the institute was ever involved in biological weapons research.

There is also no evidence that the U.S. is developing biological weapons in Ukrainian labs (see our fact-check into this myth here). A State Department spokesperson told Newsweek in March 2022 that claims about ethno-specific biological weapons in particular were completely false.

Moreover, experts say that biological agents are simply not capable of targeting specific groups based on their ethnicity. In a comment to the U.K.-based Science Media Centre, Oliver Jones, head of biosciences and food technology at RMIT University in Melbourne Australia, said: “This claim belongs purely in the realm of science fiction! Humans are just too genetically similar to find something that would affect only certain some people and not others.… There is no way to make any sort of agent, biological or otherwise, that could affect one ethnic group and not others. It is just not going to happen.”

In March 2022, U.S. news site The Intercept reported that a group of Russian-speaking biologists looked at the Russian claims and concluded that creating “a ‘military’ bacterium specific only for a certain nationality and especially for Russians is absolutely evolutionarily impossible.”

MYTH: Photos show Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky fighting in combat after Russia invaded Ukraine.

THE FACTS: Social media posts and some news sites have shared old images of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wearing camouflage, a bulletproof vest and helmet, falsely claiming that they show the president fighting after Russia invaded Ukraine. The claim has appeared in multiple languages since February 2022, including Spanish, French, Arabic, and Hebrew.

Hananya Naftali, an Israeli social media influencer with more than 1.2 million Facebook followers, shared one of the images in a Feb. 25, 2022, Facebook post, the day after Russia invaded Ukraine. He wrote: “This is the President of Ukraine Zelensky. He took off his clothes and put on a military uniform to join the troops in fighting to protect the Ukrainian homeland. He is a true leader.” The post was shared more than 70,000 times. Facebook added a label to the post, warning users that “independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people.”

A Feb 25, 2022, Twitter post shared the image, with the comment “Ukraine’s President is on the front lines fighting for his people. President Zelensky has taken up arms and joined the troops to repel Russian invasion.”The photo is not new and does not show Zelensky on the frontlines in 2022. It was taken during Zelensky’s December 2021 visit to the front line positions of the Ukrainian army in Donbas, in eastern Ukraine. A reverse image search by NewsGuard found that the original photo first appeared on Getty Images, a global photo agency. The original photo’s caption reads: “Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky visits the front-line positions of Ukrainian military in Donbas, Ukraine on December 06, 2021.”

Other photos of Zelensky taken during Feb, April and October, 2021, trips in east Ukraine, were also shared on social media after the invasion to claim that the president was visiting the front lines.

MYTH: Videos show the “Ghost of Kyiv” shooting down Russian planes.

THE FACTS: On February 24, 2022, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, wrote in a post on Facebook that at least six Russian planes and two helicopters had been destroyed on the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The following day, a video began appearing on Twitter and Facebook purportedly showing a Ukrainian MiG-29 shooting down a Russian Su-35 fighter jet. The video was subsequently retweeted by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. Some users claimed that this video showed “the Ghost of Kyiv,” an unidentified Ukrainian pilot said to have shot down several Russian planes.

The above-mentioned video of a Ukrainian MiG-29 shooting down a Russian Su-35 is not real-life footage, but was actually made using the videogame Digital Combat Simulator (abbreviated “DCS”) and then miscaptioned by social media users. The video posted on Twitter and Facebook was first uploaded to YouTube with the title “GHOST OF KIEV KILL” and its description read, “This footage is from DCS, but is nevertheless made out of respect for ‘The Ghost of Kiev.’”

The Ghost of Kyiv has not been identified or proven to exist. While the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and former president Petro Poroshenko have made references to the Ghost of Kyiv on social media and The Times reported that “a Ukrainian military source” had said that the pilot was real, attempts by fact-checking organizations including PolitiFact and Deutsche Welle to confirm the Ghost of Kyiv’s existence have gone unanswered by the Ukrainian government.

MYTH: Ukraine threatened Russia with invasion.

THE FACTS: On March 7, 2022, Russian state-owned news sites claimed that Ukraine’s Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov threatened Russia with a Ukrainian invasion, citing a March 7, 2022, Facebook post by Danilov. An article by Russian-state owned news agency RIA-Novosti, titled “The Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council threatened Russia with an invasion,” quoted the following part of Danilov’s post as evidence: “We remember everyone and everything, we will never forget anyone. You will not hide anywhere: neither behind the fences of your houses, nor in villas in Miami, nor on a yacht in Seychelles or in a bunker in the Urals… You came to our land and to our families – we will come to you.”

The article misrepresented Danilov’s statement. Danilov did not threaten to invade Russia. In the Facebook post, he asserted his view that Russia will not escape justice for its invasion of Ukraine, alluding to the International Criminal Court’s investigation into possible war crimes carried out by Russia in Ukraine, launched on March 3, 2022. He wrote: “I am convinced that the future tribunal on Russian criminals will be significant for the whole world and for Russia itself, as the war with Ukraine, among other things, has launched a process of liquidation of the Putin regime itself.” Addressing the Russian government, he added, “Your crimes are documented, and the memory of them is hot iron in the hearts. Both those who gave orders and those who carried them out aiming for a missile strike on our peaceful cities are on our list. You have come to our land and our families – we will come to you.”

MYTH: U.S. paratroopers landed in Ukraine.

THE FACTS:  A March 7, 2022, Facebook video, posted from the account “Current News Update,” shows U.S. paratroopers and falsely claimed that they were “American soldiers in Ukraine Sky.” The video had been viewed more than 7.6 million times, as of March 16, 2022. It spread to India, Pakistan, Brazil, the Philippines, and Ghana on Facebook, and was shared on other social media platforms.

The video is not new and does not show U.S. paratroopers landing in Ukraine in 2022. A reverse image search using the Amnesty International YouTube Data Viewer tool showed that the original video was first posted to YouTube in 2016 by the account “AiirSource Military,” which says it covers “military events and missions” from the US military. Тhe account has not posted videos in three years. The video shows paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division performing parachute drills in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The U.S. was not directly involved in the 2022 war in Ukraine, although it did provide weapons and aid to the country. In mid-February 2022, about two weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, U.S. soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, which was seen in the video, were deployed to a base near Przemysl, Poland, about 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) from the Ukrainian border, “to reassure our NATO allies, deter any potential aggression against NATO’s eastern flank,” a U.S. senior defense official said, according to The Washington Post.

MYTH: Russian missiles hit a nuclear waste facility in Kyiv.

THE FACTS: On Feb. 27, 2022, multiple news sites published articles in Ukrainian, Russian and English, claiming that Russian missiles hit a nuclear storage facility of the Kyiv branch of “Radon,” a state-owned enterprise. The articles cited a post on the official Facebook page of the Ukrainian Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which said: “As of February 27, 2022, at 1:20 Kyiv time, as a result of the mass bombing of Kyiv with all types of anti-aircraft and missile weapons available in the Russian Federation, shells got into the radioactive waste disposal of the Kyiv branch of Radon Association.” The post also stated that, “According to the preliminary assessment of the State Regulation, there is no threat to the population outside the sanitary and protective zone.” According to the Ukrainian fact-checking site, StopFake, the commission was relying on “information received by telephone from facility staff who called from a bomb shelter.”

However, on Feb. 27, 2022, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine posted a statement on its official Facebook page, saying that they visited the site of the attack to examine the damage and found that debris from nearby explosions fell close to the facility, but had not damaged any of its buildings. The post said: “At the scene, we determined that as a result of the shelling, an unknown object struck near the building and did not hit any important objects.” As of March 15, 2022, multiple articles had not included the update from the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

MYTH: Ukrainian “nationalists” seized about 20 OSCE vehicles in eastern Ukraine.

THE FACTS: On March 1, 2022, several Russian state media organizations including TASSRIA NovostiSputnik News, and RT published stories claiming that Ukrainian “nationalist forces” had captured about 20 vehicles belonging to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission in Kramatorsk, a Ukrainian city near the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). The articles said that the “Ukrainian nationalists” planned to use the vehicles to carry out “provocations” against OSCE employees that would be blamed on the DPR militia, and that the fate of the OSCE employees previously in possession of those vehicles remained unknown. (The OSCE is a regional security organization that has had a Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine since 2014 to report in an impartial way on the situation in Ukraine and to facilitate dialogue among all parties.)

There is no evidence that OSCE Special Monitoring Mission vehicles in Kramatorsk were stolen in late February or early March 2022, and the OSCE denied that any vehicles had been stolen from Kramatorsk. On March 1, 2022, the organization tweeted, “All OSCE vehicles in Kramatorsk are accounted for. Reports that @OSCE_SMM vehicles were stolen from our compound there are false.” Representatives of the OSCE also denied that its vehicles had been stolen when contacted by the French fact-checking site FactAndFurious.com and the Ukrainian fact-checking site StopFake.org.

The OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission’s daily reports from Feb. 28, 2022, and March 1, 2022, made no mention of any vehicles or personnel being captured, and the Feb. 28 report indicated that there were no OSCE personnel remaining in Kramatorsk at that time. “The Mission completed the evacuation activities of most international mission members following the 25 February decision,” the organization said. “The evacuation of the Monitoring Teams located in Lviv, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Dnipro, Odessa, Kyiv and Kyiv Head Office, as well as the Monitoring Teams from the Sievierodonetsk, Mariupol and Kramatorsk Patrol Hubs is complete.”

MYTH: Ukraine staged the attack on the hospital in Mariupol.

THE FACTS: Russian officials, the Russian state-owned media and pro-Kremlin news sites falsely claimed that the March 9, 2022, airstrike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol in southern Ukraine, which injured 17 people, according to the WHO, was staged by crisis actors and that the hospital was a base for the Ukrainian army and radicals.

The Russian Embassy in the U.K. said in a March 10, 2022, Twitter post that images of two injured women taken by The Associated Press at the scene of the attack, were fake. The embassy claimed that a beauty blogger, Marianna Podgurskaya, “played the roles” of the two women; a pregnant woman being carried on a stretcher and a pregnant woman in polka dot pyjamas descending the stairs of the hospital.

This claim is false. The pregnant woman pictured in polka dots pyjamas was indeed a beauty blogger; however, her name is Marianna Vishegirskaya. As evident in the photos, she is not the same person as the woman being carried on a stretcher, who later died along with her baby, according to a March 15, 2022, report by The Associated Press. Bellingcat, an investigative news outlet, using a facial verification tool, found that there was a zero percent likelihood that the two faces in the photos belonged to the same person. The Associated Press said it was unable to determine the identity of the woman on the stretcher.

Russian officials and state-owned media also claimed that the hospital was being used as a base for the Azov battalion, a Ukrainian far-right militia that is part of Ukraine’s National Guard, according to Reuters, and emptied of staff and patients. During a March 10, 2022, press conference, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the hospital had “long been taken over by the Azov battalion and other radicals and that all the women in labor, all the nurses and in general all the staff had been told to leave it. It was a base of the ultra-radical Azov battalion.”

Echoing Lavrov’s statement, a March 9, 2022, Twitter post from the official account of the Russian embassy in Israel shared an image that purportedly showed tanks in front of the empty maternity hospital, with the comment: “The truth is that the maternity hospital has not worked since the beginning of Russia’s special operation in Ukraine. The doctors were dispersed by militants of the Azov nationalist battalion. #StopFakeNews.”

In fact, the image used in the embassy’s Twitter post was not of the maternity hospital in Mariupol. According to Bellingcat, on March 11, 2022, geolocation data showed that the building in the photo was actually located 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from the hospital.

Additionally, photographer Yevgeny Maloletka, who took some of the photos of the Mariupol hospital attack for The Associated Press, told Latvia-based news site The Insider on March 10, 2022, “We photographed what was happening. There was an airstrike, and the hospital was full of people. People were coming out of the basement and the building — and we recorded it. The Azov Battalion wasn’t there.”

MYTH: European universities are expelling Russian students.

THE FACTS: As of March 2022, there was no evidence that European universities expelled or threatened to expel Russian students in retaliation for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These allegations appear to have started after Russia’s human rights ombudsman, Tatiana Moskalkova, wrote in a since deleted, Feb. 28, 2022, Instagram post that she and the Russian Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov were “taking unprecedented measures to protect the rights of Russian students who have been expelled from universities in France, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and other European states due to the situation in Ukraine.”

Moskalkova did not provide evidence to support her claim, but social media accounts and prominent Russian websites supportive of Russian President Vladimir Putin soon began repeating the allegation. State-run news agency RIA Novosti reported that Russian students expelled from European universities would be able to study for free at Russian universities, such as the Higher School of Economics, Moscow State University, and Saint Petersburg State University.

The claim spread throughout European campuses and social media. More than a dozen universities, including schools in France, the Czech Republic, and Belgium issued statements in March 2022 stating that Russian students were not at risk of expulsion.

In a tweet posted on March 1, 2022, the European University Association (EUA), which includes about 850 universities across more than 40 countries, said that “Various rumors have emerged that European #universities have been expelling Russian students since the aggression on Ukraine… It is untrue and EUA hasn’t received any report of potential expulsions by any of its members.”

Luc Sels, the rector of KU Leuven, a university in Belgium, tweeted about the rumor on March 2, 2022, that “nothing could be further from the truth. We support all students at #kuleuven and welcome new ones, in a spirit of peace & solidarity.” Michel Deneken, president of the University of Strasbourg in France, told French radio broadcaster Radio France in March 2022 that Russian students enrolled at his university took the news as fact. “The fact that we had responses from Russian students saying, ‘thank you for reassuring us’, shows that they were worried about this fake news,” Deneken said.

The French Ministry of Higher Learning also denied the rumor, and said in a February 2022 meeting with university officials that the approximately 5,000 Russian students and researchers studying in France would be allowed to continue their studies in the country, Radio France reported.

MYTH: A man named “Bernie Gores” was the first American casualty of the Ukraine crisis.

THE FACTS: Twitter post from an account masquerading as CNN falsely announced on Feb 23, 2022, that a man named Bernie Gores was the “first American casualty of the Ukraine crisis.” The post, from the unverified and now suspended account @CNNUKR, showed a photo of Gores saying, “Thoughts and prayers with the family of activist Bernie Gores who passed away this morning after a mine planted by Russian backed separatists exploded.”

A similar Twitter post on Aug. 16, 2021, from an unverified and since suspended account @CNNAfghan, shared an image of the same man. The post said: “#CNN Journalist ‘Bernie Gores’ executed in #Kabul by #Taliban soldiers.”

Some social media users shared the Twitter posts side by side, with allegations that CNN was producing misinformation. A Feb 25, 2022, Facebook post said: “See how CNN Blatantly LIES to the public!” Another Facebook post, on Feb. 26, 2022, said “CNN is the enemy of the people.”

The claims are false. The photos allegedly showing “Bernie Gores” are actually of  a YouTuber and gamer called Jordie Jordan. As stated above, these Twitter posts came from unverified accounts and were not shared by CNN. In a March 2022 fact-check, CNN said of the false reports about Gores: “Both tweets about a ‘Bernie Gores’ being killed are fabrications not connected to CNN. The ‘CNN Ukraine’ and ‘CNN Afghanistan’ accounts behind the tweets are both phonies that have been suspended by Twitter for violating its policy against impersonation.”

A reverse Google Image search by NewsGuard showed that the image used in the Twitter posts was published on Jordie Jordan’s profile on Wikitubia, a Wikipedia-type site of gamers. Jordie Jordan is alive, as shown by his last YouTube video, which was March 16, 2022.

MYTH: Ukraine is training child soldiers.

THE FACTS: In February 2022 and March 2022, multiple social media posts shared photos of Ukrainian children wearing military uniforms and brandishing weapons, with captions falsely claiming that children were training to fight after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.

The photos appeared in a March 8, 2022, post in the Telegram channel of a conspiracy group, Outreach Worldwide, which claimed that “child soldiers” are being trained in “the model of ISIS” and that Ukraine is violating human rights law as a result.

A Feb. 25, 2022, Facebook post in Sinhala, the most widely spoken language in Sri Lanka, shared the photos under the caption, “War is a curse. Children take up arms to save their motherland. Child soldiers of Ukraine.” In fact, the photos were taken by The Associated Press as part of an essay titled “Ukraine Groomed to Fight,” in July 2017, three years into the conflict between the Ukrainian army and Russian-backed separatists. The original caption of one photo read, “In this photo taken on Saturday, 8 July 2017, students at a paramilitary camp for children hit their fists onto their hearts during an evening ceremony outside Kyiv, Ukraine. As the deadly conflict in eastern Ukraine entered its third year, some parents in Ukraine are anxious to make sure their children are ready to fight it, instead of swimming and playing volleyball.”

Other photos that claimed to show Ukrainian child soldiers in 2022 were actually taken by the European Press photo Agency in August 2015. The caption of one photo in part reads, “Children hold mock weapons as they attend training in the youth military-patriotic summer camp ‘Azovets’ in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, 12 August 2015.” There have been no reports or other evidence indicating that children are fighting in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

MYTH: The war in Ukraine is a hoax.

THE FACTS: In March 2022, social media users spread false claims that the war in Ukraine was a hoax, staged by crisis actors and orchestrated by the Western media.

video of a news reporter in front of dozens of people lying on the ground covered in what looks like body bags went viral on several major social networks. Seconds into the clip, a person in a bag moves around conspicuously. A March 1, 2022, post on Twitter miscaptioned the video, “Miracle! Death (dead) Ukrainians coming to life after dying on social media but caught on live camera.”

In fact, the video clip is not new and does not show crisis actors in Ukraine in 2022. The video was posted by Austrian news channel OE24 to YouTube on Feb. 4, 2022, with the caption: “Vienna: Demo against climate policy.” It shows a climate change protest in Austria, which took place on Feb. 1, 2022, more than three weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, according to the Austrian newspaper Osterreich. The protest was organized by climate activists of the youth movement “Friday for Future” and the use of body bags aimed to highlight the threat of carbon emissions.

A more sophisticated manipulated video used an Austrian news report, and replaced the audio with an English-language NBC News report shot from Lviv in western Ukraine, in which correspondent Cal Perry spoke about casualties on the first day of the war. This fake also replaced the Austrian outlet’s original on-screen banner, with the English text that appeared on NBC, reading “UKRAINIAN HEALTH MINISTRY: 57 DEAD, 169 HURT ACROSS UKRAINE AS RUSSIA LAUNCHES ATTACK.” The video was shared on Twitter on March 2, 2022, by Lee Stranahan, a self-described Russia supporter, who hosts a show on Russian-state owned Radio Sputnik, with the caption “How to lose your job as a crisis actor…” The fake video generated more than one million views on Twitter alone, before it was taken down by the platform on March 7, 2022.

In late February, social media users falsely claimed that a photo of a wounded woman in Ukraine was taken in 2018, not in 2022, and that the woman was a crisis actor. For example, a Feb 26, 2022, TikTok video wrongly said that the photo was used in a July 2018 news article about a gas leak. The TikTok video garnered more than 473,000 views and 22,000 likes as of March 15, 2022, and was reposted to Facebook. One Feb. 26, 2022, Facebook post shared the video with the comment “Crisis actors at there [sic] best…”.

In fact, the photo was taken by photographer Wolfgang Schwan on Feb. 24, 2022, the first day of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, and shows a woman, who was injured in a shelling attack on a residential building in Chuhuiv, Ukraine. A reverse image search by NewsGuard did not find the photo published anywhere else before Feb. 24, 2022.

MYTH: The U.S. has a network of bioweapons labs in Eastern Europe.

THE FACTS: On Feb. 24, 2022, a thread by the Twitter account @WarClandestine suggesting that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was actually targeting U.S. bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine was widely shared on social media using the hashtag #USBiolabs. The thread cited claims by Russian officials that the U.S. maintains a network of bioweapons labs near Russia’s borders in Eastern Europe. Russian state-owned media outlets have been making similar claims since at least 2016.

These claims are typically based on a misrepresentation of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Biological Threat Reduction Program, which collaborates with partner countries to reduce the threat of outbreaks of dangerous infectious diseases by helping partners to secure dangerous pathogens and to quickly detect outbreaks, according to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine’s website. The U.S. has been providing aid to Ukrainian laboratories since 2005, when the Ukrainian Ministry of Health and U.S. Department of Defense signed an agreement intended to limit the threat of bioterrorism by implementing safeguards on deadly pathogens from Soviet-era biological weapons programs. The Biological Threat Reduction Program has since helped to construct and modernize Ukrainian laboratories. The labs themselves are run and primarily financed by the Ukrainian government. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) noted in response to claims about the presence of U.S. military biological laboratories in a May 2020 statement that “no foreign biological laboratories operate in Ukraine.”

MYTH: Russia was not using cluster munitions during its military operation in Ukraine.

THE FACTS: Russia insisted that its armed forces were only using high-precision weapons during its war with Ukraine in 2022 and denied reports that its army was using cluster munitions, which can inflict more damage on civilians. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said оn March 1, 2022, that such reports are “undoubtedly fake news,” according to Reuters. Peskov said that Russian operations are focused on military targets, not civilian ones, Reuters reported.

Cluster munitions are notoriously dangerous for civilians because they produce undetonated bombs that effectively act like land mines. As a result, a 2008 United Nations treaty signed by 108 countries, excluding Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and other countries, banned its use.

Human Rights Watch said on March 4, 2022, that on Feb. 28, 2022, Russia used cluster munitions in at least three residential areas in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, which killed at least three civilians. Human Rights Watch said, “Interviews with 2 witnesses and an analysis of 40 videos and photographs reveal the use of submunitions delivered by Russian-made 9M55K Smerch cluster munition rockets.”

The investigative journalism site, Bellingcat, said that evidence appears to show Russia inflicting civilian harm, including through the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas, based on credible videos and photos. Bellingcat wrote in a Feb. 27, 2022, report, that Russia appears to have been firing cluster bombs from multiple launch rocket systems, BM 27 and BM 30. It said, “We can tell this by the distinctive munitions used by each system and the direction from which they appear to have travelled before impact.”

A March 4, 2022, BBC investigation analyzed footage of a Feb. 28, 2022, attack in Kharkiv and drew insights from weapons experts. The BBC concluded: “The evidence points clearly to the attack in question being carried out by Russian forces. Other images shared online show Russian sub-munitions dropped in the same neighbourhood on the day of the attack.”

During a March 4, 2022, meeting in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that Russia attacked Ukraine with cluster bombs, according to reports by Reuters and Тhe New York Times. “We have seen the use of cluster bombs and we have seen reports of use of other types of weapons, which would be in violation of international law,” Stoltenberg said.

MYTH: NATO has a military base in Odessa.

THE FACTS: In December 2021, various pro-Russia news sites claimed that NATO established a naval base in Odessa, a southern port city in Ukraine.

NATO ships have been increasing their presence on the Black Sea since Russia’s annexation of Crimea 2014, according to the news section on NATO’s official website in July 2021. The Alliance states that “NATO ships routinely operate in the Black Sea, consistent with international law, usually patrolling the waters for around two-thirds of the year.”

In fact, foreign military bases are not permitted in Ukraine, according to article 17 of the country’s constitution, and there is no evidence of such a base. NATO’s interactive map, which shows where surveillance systems and Alliance training centers are located, shows no NATO base or center or any other military facility in Ukraine. On a page of its website last updated in January 2022, NATO wrote that “Outside NATO territory, the Alliance only has a military presence in Kosovo and Iraq.”

MYTH: Russia did not target civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

THE FACTS: As Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, the Russian government claimed that the Russian army was using precision-guided weapons aimed only at military targets, not civilian infrastructure. These claims have been repeated uncritically by various Russian-state news sites.

In fact, Amnesty International has documented multiple attacks by the Russian army against civilian targets in Ukraine. One day after the invasion, Amnesty International said that Russia was carrying out “indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas and strikes on protected objects such as hospitals,” after documenting three incidents in the cities of Vuhledar, Kharkiv, and Uman, that it believes to have killed at least six civilians and injured at least 12 more. Agnès Callamard, the group’s Secretary General, said the Russian military used “ballistic missiles and other explosive weapons with wide-area effects in densely-populated areas,” adding that some of these attacks may constitute war crimes.

MYTH: Modern Ukraine was entirely created by communist Russia.

THE FACTS: In Feb. 21, 2022, just three days before Russia launched a full invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely, Bolshevik, communist Russia,” Putin said, lamenting that the communists “gave these republics the right to leave the (Soviet) union without any terms and conditions.”

It is true that today’s Russia and Ukraine, both former Soviet states, share long periods of history. However, they have spent considerably more time apart than together. Russia and Ukraine’s shared heritage dates back more than 1,000 years, when Kyiv was the center of the first Slavic state, Kievan Rus, a medieval empire founded by Vikings in the 9th century and the birthplace of Ukraine and Russia. The historical reality of Ukraine is a complicated 10-century history of shifting borders and conquest by multiple, competing powers. While parts of modern-day Ukraine existed within the Russian empire for centuries, other parts in the west fell to the control of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Poland, or Lithuania.

Contrary to Putin’s claim that “the Bolsheviks invented Ukraine,” Ukraine had fought for, and gained, independence in 1918 — a status that lasted only a few years. In 1922, Russian Bolsheviks defeated Ukraine’s national government and established the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Ukraine would spend the next 69 years as part of the Union.

Putin’s claim that Moscow “gave” Ukraine the right to become independent of the Soviet Union “without any terms and conditions,” is incorrect because it was the Ukrainians who chose independence in a democratic referendum. In 1991, as the Soviet Union was dissolving, 84 percent of eligible voters in Ukraine went to the polls, and more than 92 percent voted to leave the Soviet Union. Moscow even vowed to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty as a condition of Ukraine’s giving up its nuclear weapons — which was memorialized in 1994, in an agreement known as the Budapest Memorandum.

MYTH: Crimea joined Russia legally.

THE FACTS: At the end of February 2014, troops operating without national insignia seized government facilities and checkpoints in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, including the parliament building in Simferopol. In an April 2014 press conference, Russian President Putin admitted that Russian troops had been deployed to Crimea to support local defense forces, having insisted a month earlier that the armed men were local defense forces. In March 2014, the newly installed Russian separatist prime minister, Sergei Aksyonov, held a referendum on the status of Crimea, the results of which were overwhelmingly in favor of the peninsula joining Russia. The Russian government has falsely claimed that Crimea legally joined Russia because the referendum was held in compliance with international law.

In fact, the referendum was not legitimate and, as a result, most countries do not recognize Crimea as a part of Russia. The UN Assembly and the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe consisting of legal experts, declared the referendum and its outcome illegitimate for a number of reasons. First, the referendum did not give all of Ukraine’s citizens the right to vote on Crimea’s status, violating Ukraine’s constitution, which requires that any changes to the territory of Ukraine be approved by a referendum of all eligible voters in Ukraine. Moreover, the options on the ballot excluded the possibility for Crimea to maintain the status quo and remain part of Ukraine. The two options were: Join Russia, or return to the 1992 constitution, which gave the peninsula significant autonomy.

In addition, international law does not recognize a referendum held under armed aggression. As Marc Weller, Professor of International Law at the University of Cambridge, wrote for the BBC in March 2014, “Crimea cannot proceed with a possible secession or even incorporation into Russia while Moscow holds sway on the ground.” Igor Strelkov, a leading Russian commander in Crimea in 2014, who is also known as Igor Girkin, said during a 2015 interview on the Russian program “Polit-Ring” that militants under his command “forced” lawmakers to vote in the referendum. “Members of parliament were gathered by the militants and forced into the hall [parliament chamber] to make them vote,” he said.

MYTH: Polish-speaking saboteurs attempted to bomb a chlorine plant in Donbas.

THE FACTS: Days before Russia invaded Ukraine, the Russia-backed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine shared a video claiming to show that its militia prevented Polish-speaking “saboteurs” from blowing up chlorine containers at a sewage treatment plant near separatist-controlled town Horlivka in Donetsk on Feb. 18, 2022. The Donetsk People’s Republic also said that the saboteurs were part of “two special purpose groups of the VFU [Ukrainian army].” However, the video turned out to be manipulated, and there is no evidence that saboteurs attempted such an attack in Horlivka.

According to investigative news outlet Bellingcat, analysis of the video’s metadata revealed that it had been recorded days before the attack was claimed to have happened. The video’s metadata, which was reviewed by NewsGuard, confirmed that it was recorded on Feb. 8, 2022, ten days before the attack allegedly happened. Additionally, according to Bellingcat, the audio track had been manipulated with the addition of explosion sounds that appear to have been lifted from a video of Finnish military exercises, which was posted to YouTube in April 2010.

MYTH: Ukrainian forces bombed a kindergarten in Lugansk on Feb. 17, 2022.

THE FACTS: Russian news sites claimed that the Ukrainian army bombed a kindergarten in the village Novaya Kondrashovka, which they said was located in the Russian separatist-controlled Lugansk republic in eastern Ukraine. However, analysts at Bellingcat reported that both the location of the kindergarten and evidence from the scene indicate that the shelling came from the south, where Russian-separatist frontlines are located. Correctly placing the kindergarten in the Ukrainian village of Novaya Kondrashovka, a few kilometres north of the frontline with the Russia-backed separatists, and analysis of a crater next to the site, shows that “the shell clearly came from the south” according to Bellingcat’s Director of Training and Research, Aric Toler.

MYTH: The U.S. and U.K. sent outdated and obsolete weapons to Ukraine.

THE FACTS: The U.K. and the U.S. began sending weapons to Ukraine in mid-January 2022 as fears mounted over a possible Russian invasion of the country. The U.K. supplied Ukraine with short-range anti-tank NLAW missiles while the U.S. has sent 300 Javelin missiles and other supplies, as part of a $200 million security package for Ukraine.

The Russian-state media and pro-Russian news sites claimed that the weaponry was outdated, obsolete, and ineffective. Such claims were used to suggest that the arms would not bolster the Ukrainian army’s capabilities in the event of a war and that the West is not actually interested in helping Ukraine.

In January 2022 the Russian news site,Vesti, wrote that the shelf life of the U.K’s NLAW is “coming to an end” and that Ukraine was becoming a “convenient landfill for the West.”

In fact, NLAW is not becoming obsolete. The shelf life of NLAW anti-tank missiles is 20 years, according to Saab, a Swedish aerospace and defense company, which manufactured the weapon. NLAW came into service in 2009 and was procured by the U.K. the same year. Therefore, the weapon will not expire until 2029.

Vesti also suggested that Javelin anti-tank missiles from the U.S. were not not effective. The site quoted Ruslan Pukhov, Director of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, saying “these will not strengthen the Ukrainian army.”

U.S. Javelins have been used in 5,000 combat firings with a 94 percent engagement success rate, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Javelins have also proven to be effective in Ukraine. In December 2021, the Ukrainian military tested a Javelin, which it received in October that year as part of annual military aid from the U.S., to hit a tank at a 1.5 km distance. The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine said in a Facebook post in December, 2021: “Despite the fact that the soldiers fired this weapon for the first time, the task was completed successfully – the target was hit.”

According to the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center, which is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, “Javelin is highly effective against a variety of targets at extended ranges during day or night operations, and under battlefield obscurants, adverse weather and multiple countermeasure conditions.” In 2017, an article in The Wall Street Journal described Javelin as “America’s most effective portable anti-tank weapon.”

MYTH: Nazism is rampant in Ukrainian politics and society, supported by the authorities in Kyiv.

THE FACTS: Radical far-right groups do exist in Ukraine and, according to a 2018 Freedom House report, they represent a “threat to the democratic development of Ukraine.” However, the report also stated that far-right extremists have poor political representation in Ukraine and no plausible path to power. Indeed, in the 2014 parliamentary elections, the far-right nationalist party Svoboda received 4.7 percent of the vote. In the 2019 presidential election, the Svoboda candidate, Ruslan Koshulynskyy, won just 1.6 percent of the vote, and in the parliamentary elections, Svoboda won 2.2 percent of the vote. Svoboda currently holds one parliamentary seat.

This myth goes hand-in-hand with false claims of widespread anti-Semitism in Ukraine. In 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there was a “rampage” of “anti-Semitic forces” in certain parts of Ukraine, a statement that was contradicted by representatives of Ukraine’s Jewish community. Jewish community leaders signed an open letter to Putin stating that his assertions about the rise of anti-Semitism did not match “the actual facts.” Additionally, a 2018 report by the National Minority Rights Monitoring Group, an NGO which monitors anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine, said that the number of anti-Semitic incidents has been declining in Ukraine in recent years.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, addressed the Russian public in a Feb. 24, 2022, speech, saying that these claims do not reflect the “real” Ukraine. “You are told we are Nazis. But could people who lost more than 8 million lives in the battle against Nazism support Nazism?”

MYTH: The West staged a coup to overthrow the pro-Russia Ukrainian government in 2014.

THE FACTS: There is no evidence supporting the idea that the 2014 Maidan revolution in Ukraine that led to the ouster of then-president Viktor Yanukovych was a coup orchestrated by Western countries.

It is true that the U.S. supported the Maidan revolution. In December 2013, U.S. Senator John McCain travelled to Kyiv, where he told protestors, “We are here to support your just cause, the sovereign right of Ukraine to determine its own destiny freely and independently.” Between 1992 and 2013, the U.S. government gave approximately $5 billion to support democracy-building programs in Ukraine. U.S. aid to Ukraine in 2013, the year the protests started, went to a wide variety of activities, including nuclear non-proliferation efforts, a program to reduce unwanted pregnancies by encouraging the use of contraception, and an initiative to improve standardized testing. However, there is no evidence that the West orchestrated the revolution.

Indeed, it had all the markings of a popular uprising, not a coup.

In November 2013, thousands of Ukrainians flocked to Kyiv’s Independence Square (“Maidan Nezalezhnosti”) to protest then-President Victor Yanukovych’s decision to suspend preparations for the signing of an association and free-trade agreement with the European Union, scheduled for the following week. Over the following months, the protests, often referred to as “Euromaidan” after the square where they took place, grew in size. Negotiations between the Ukrainian government and the pro-European Union opposition, mediated by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Poland, led to an agreement signed on Feb. 21, 2014, giving more power to Ukraine’s parliament and planning for a presidential election by the end of the year.

However, angry protesters demanded Yanukovych’s immediate resignation, and hundreds of police officers guarding government buildings abandoned their posts. Yanukovych fled the same day the agreement was signed, and protesters took control of several government buildings the next day. The Ukrainian parliament then voted 328-0 to remove Yanukovych from office and scheduled early presidential elections the following May, the BBC reported. These events, often collectively referred to as the “Maidan revolution,” were extensively covered by international media organizations with correspondents in Ukraine, including the BBC, the Associated Press, and The New York Times.

MYTH: Russian-speaking residents in Donbas have been subjected to genocide.

THE FACTS: The International Criminal Court, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have all said they have found no evidence of genocide in Donbas, the eastern Ukrainian region partly occupied by Russian-backed separatists since 2014. The U.S. mission to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe called the genocide claim a “reprehensible falsehood” in a Feb. 16 2022 post on its official Twitter account. It said that the mission “has complete access to the government-controlled areas of Ukraine and HAS NEVER reported anything remotely resembling Russia’s claims.” 

A 2021 Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report blamed the authorities of the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk republics for various abuses, including severe restrictions on the freedom of movement, forcing people to adopt Russian citizenship, and arbitrary arrests. At the same time, the UN reported three cases of arbitrary detainment and ill-treatment carried out by Ukraine’s SBU (secret service), and 13 such cases in the self-proclaimed republics, which the UN said were “usually” carried out by the “ministry of state security” officers, known as MGB.

A 2016 report by the International Criminal Court found that the acts of violence allegedly committed by the Ukrainian authorities in 2013 and 2014 could constitute an “attack directed against a civilian population.” However, it also said that “The information available did not provide a reasonable basis to believe that the attack was systematic or widespread.”

Correction: An earlier version of this tracker inaccurately referred to Mimikama as a German fact-checking organization. In fact, Mimikama is Austrian. NewsGuard apologizes for the error.