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Fact-checking viral images and videos from Russia’s attack on Ukraine

Photos and videos falsely attributed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine surfaced soon after the attack began.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story contains video footage with strong language. 

While diplomats from across the world met in an emergency session of the United Nations late Feb. 23, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of Russia’s attack of Ukraine. 

Immediately after his announcement, news crews reporting live from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, recorded audio of bombs dropping near the city. Social media users from across the European country reported hearing or seeing them near where they live.

Soon after, social media users both from Ukraine and outside of it began posting videos and photos they claimed were from the ongoing war. The VERIFY team is identifying fake and misleading imagery from the conflict. To read more, click here

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a developing story. VERIFY will continue to monitor for claims around Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Want something verified? Email your questions about the invasion to questions@verifythis.com.

THE QUESTION

Is this image of Ukrainians praying outdoors in the snow from Russia’s February 2022 invasion on Ukraine?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, this photo wasn’t taken in February 2022. A reverse image search of the Facebook post traces back to a September 2019 personal essay authored by Nicole Leigh from the International Mission Board (IMB), an international group focusing on sharing faith-based content.

Credit: VERIFY
This image was from 2014, when conflict first broke out in Ukraine. It was posted online in 2019.

In the post titled “Standing On Our Knees,” Leigh describes being called to prayer after violence broke out in Kharkiv in March 2014. The image, showing a group of Ukrainians kneeling and praying outside of Kharkiv’s Freedom Square, is shown at the top of the article. According to the original article, Ukrainian “pastors and evangelical leaders put out a call for prayer — 7 o’clock every morning — in the city square, for anyone who wanted to fight the real battle taking place for their city — the spiritual battle.”

Other evangelical outlets like Word&Way, Believers Portal, and GodReports shared the article in October 2019, giving image credit to IMB as the original source. Kentucky Today also shared the article with the original image on Oct. 14, 2019.

THE QUESTION

Does this tweet show a Russian airstrike on a power plant in Luhansk, Ukraine?

Credit: VERIFY
This tweet, which was later deleted, portrayed a video of a 2015 factory explosion as an airstrike in Ukraine.

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, this is not a video of a Russian airstrike on a power plant in Luhansk, Ukraine. The video shows a 2015 factory explosion in Tianjin, China.

A 2015 article from The Guardian credits the video to Dan Van Duren. He is an American aircraft mechanic who was living in Tianjin at the time, according to an NBC News article, also from 2015. The video can also be found in YouTube videos from 2015, including one by a Chinese-language channel that compiled several videos from the incident together.

The video has been falsely attributed to other events before. A 2020 fact check from Reuters found claims that the video depicted Minneapolis Police Department’s third precinct building during the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd.

More from VERIFY: No, Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but the country has applied to join

The VERIFY team works to separate fact from fiction so that you can understand what is true and false. Please consider subscribing to our daily newsletter, text alerts and our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Learn More »

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