DEBUNKED

Ukraine: The fake images 'showing Ukrainian resistance to the Russian army'

These images do not show acts of resistance by Ukrainian civilians.
These images do not show acts of resistance by Ukrainian civilians. © Observers

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, images purporting to show Ukrainian acts of resistance have been shared widely on social networks. The Ukrainian population is indeed carrying out a strong resistance in several cities, but some of these posts are actually images taken out of context and have nothing to do with the ongoing conflict. 

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  • On social media, some accounts have been sharing videos and photos supposedly showing the Ukrainian population mobilising against the Russian army. 
  • There is plenty of verified evidence showing the real Ukrainian resistance.
  • However, there are still a lot of posts going around that have nothing to do with the current conflict.
  • Through reverse image searches, we have been able to trace the origin of these images, which are unrelated to the war in Ukraine. 

A closer look

A first lady taking up arms, a young Ukrainian girl opposing Russian soldiers, or even tutorials on how to drive armoured vehicles stolen from the enemy ... Since February 24, many accounts have shared images on social media to show civilians bravely opposing the Russian army. The FRANCE 24 Observers team has authenticated several of these videos. However, some posts, also supposedly showing Ukrainian resistance, actually have nothing to do with the conflict.

Did the First Lady of Ukraine take up arms against the Russian army?

On TikTok, a video purporting to show Ukraine's First Lady Olena Zelenska in military garb has amassed over four million views. The video mixes authentic shots of President Volodymyr Zelensky's wife with a photo of a woman dressed in a Ukrainian army uniform holding a gun. According to some of the accounts sharing the video, the photo shows that the First Lady of Ukraine has joined the army to defend her country. 

Screenshot of the montage showing a fake image of the First Lady of Ukraine.
Screenshot of the montage showing a fake image of the First Lady of Ukraine. Observers

To find out where this photo really comes from, we did a reverse image search (click here to find out how). We found this portrait in several online image banks, for example on the istock website. The caption of the photo indicates that it was taken on August 22, 2021 by photographer Volodymyr Zakharov, and that it is a photograph of a "Ukrainian military woman during training for the parade celebrating the 30th anniversary of Ukraine's independence". It’s not the First Lady of Ukraine. 

Screenshot of the photo on istock.
Screenshot of the photo on istock. Observers

A tutorial for driving armoured vehicles stolen from the Russian army? 

A video on Twitter, which has more than seven million views, shows a woman driving a military vehicle through a snowy landscape. According to the accounts who have been sharing it since February 28, it is a "tutorial made by a Ukrainian woman explaining how to drive abandoned or stolen tanks from the Russian army". 

Screenshot of one of the Tweets sharing this fake tutorial for driving an armoured car.
Screenshot of one of the Tweets sharing this fake tutorial for driving an armoured car. Observers

From this post, you can find the TikTok account that made the video, @nastyatyman. That user, Nastya Tyman, shared this video on February 16, 2021, one year before the Russian offensive began. More importantly, she isn’t Ukrainian but Russian according to her YouTube profile. In February 2021, she shared a post on Instagram to celebrate the "Day of the Defender of the Fatherland", a holiday celebrated in Russia. So, while this tutorial does indeed show how to drive a military vehicle, it was actually published in February 2021 by a Russian videographer. 

A Ukrainian girl fighting a Russian soldier? 

Since February 27, several images of the same girl fighting a man in military uniform have been shared on social networks. Some Twitter accounts claim that these images show an "eight-year-old Ukrainian girl telling a Russian soldier to return to his country". 

Screenshot of one of the tweets sharing this image out of context.
Screenshot of one of the tweets sharing this image out of context. Observers

Thanks to a reverse image search, we found several articles in Israeli media featuring these same photos. But these articles report on events that took place in the West Bank, not in Ukraine. The Times of Israel explains that these images are from a video from 2012 in which an 11-year-old Palestinian girl challenges an Israeli soldier. This young girl is in fact Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian activist. The photos, therefore, have nothing to do with the war in Ukraine. 

Screenshot of the image of Ahed Tamimi used in the Times of Israel article.
Screenshot of the image of Ahed Tamimi used in the Times of Israel article. Observers