A picture showing the US ambassador to Russia taking part in a protest to commemorate Boris Nemtsov, a political opponent of Putin who was assassinated in 2015, turns out to have been Photoshopped.

The editorial team at French newspaper JDD were the first to call attention to the fake news item. They are one of the many partners of The Observers France 24 team on the CrossCheck project, a joint initiative by a number of international news outlets in the fight against the proliferation of fake news.

The photo shows John Tefft, the US ambassador in Moscow, in the middle of a demonstration to commemorate Nemtsov. He is holding a sign on which is written in Russian, “He fought for our future.”

Translation: “Why is the US ambassador to Russia John Tefft taking part in the Nemstov March?”


The image was posted on several Russian social networks starting February 26, the date of the protest. In France, it was posted on the French blog Russie Politics, a blog focusing on Russian politics and managed by researcher Karine Béchet-Golovko, who also tweeted the image.


It’s clearly a Photoshop job: John Tefft is standing exactly the same way in a photo published on 22 April, 2015 in the Moscow Times. Putting the photos side by side shows that his outfit and the position in which he is standing are identical. All that was left was to cut out his outline and place a protest sign in his hand.

Béchet-Golovko's tweet was then picked up by Thierry Mariani, a French MP representing French citizens living abroad, particularly in Eastern Europe.

Translation: "If the Russian ambassador joined protests in France it would be a scandal, but the US has impunity."

The Observers team at France 24 got in touch with Karine Béchet-Golovko to let her know about the fake photo. She replied that she had picked it up from the website Colonel Cassad, “It looks like it is a photomontage, even though the site’s writer doesn’t say so. To take with a pinch of salt. I’m going to take it down off my blog.” The blog post has since been changed — but the photo not removed.

Original blog post with the photo, on "Russie Politics".

Edited text after her discussion with The Observers France 24.

As for the French MP? Thierry Mariani apologised for having tweeted a "photomontage", along with some choice emojis.  France 24 contacted him for comment but he has yet to reply.

Translation: "Mea culpa for using a tweet that was a photomontage and that I retweeted".