Children at the heart of Ukraine’s image propaganda war


A little girl lost as war rages in the Ukrainian city of Donbass - at least, that’s what some Internet users would like you to believe. It’s actually a little Australian girl who paddled in mud with her puppy in 2010. And it’s just one example of many attempts at manipulation currently making the rounds online.

Via the hash tag #savedonbaspeople, pro-Russian Internet users are manipulating photos to denounce Ukraine’s ongoing military operation against separatists in the east.  Take for example this photo of the young Australia girl that a National Front supporter in France didn’t hesitate to retweet.


In certain cases, these images are forwarded even when users know they’re fake. Contacted by FRANCE 24, one twitter user who retweeted an image admitted to knowing it had been manipulated. He defends his decision to publish it on the grounds that it doesn’t matter whether they’re real or not: what’s more important is that the picture gets the media interested in the conflict.


This other photo of an injured boy shared under the same hash tag #savedonbasspeople - and presented as if it had been taken in Donetsk - was in fact taken in Aleppo, Syria in 2013 after a bombardment. The United Nations calls this kind of manipulation propaganda.



Another example - this image of a young girl in tears - was  taken from a 2010 film called ‘The Brest Fortress’.


In mid-June, the United Nations estimated that at least 356 people, including 86 Ukrainian soldiers, had died in the violence that has ravaged the east of the country. According to FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Ukraine, it’s possible that children on both sides of the conflict have been killed: several residential neighborhoods have already become theatres of conflict. Yet in a propaganda war, in which Ukrainian authorities tend to minimize casualty lists in the wake of military operations and pro-Russians manipulate information, reliable information on the fate of children is hard to come by.
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