Was this photo of Chechen leader Kadyrov praying in a petrol station taken in Ukraine?
A photo claiming to show the Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov has made the rounds on social media, and in international media outlets. In the photo, Kadyrov is said to be praying in a petrol station in Mariupol, the strategic port city where Chechen fighters are currently helping Russian troops to vie for control. But the Chechen leader never claimed that the photo was taken in Mariupol; indeed, it was taken more than 200 kilometres away.
A photo of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was shared on Twitter on March 29 with the claim: ”The head of Chechnya republic Kadyrov desperately wants people to think he is fighting in #Ukraine [...] Now he says is in Mariupol and posts this picture, not realizing, but there are no Rosneft stations in Ukraine.” In the picture, we can see Ramzan Kadyrov praying on a carpet in a petrol station.
Some users claimed that Kadyrov himself had posted the picture saying he was praying in Mariupol. Even international media outlets like Yahoo News or Daily Mail published the picture with the caption, “Ramzan Kadyrov performs a prayer at a petrol station during a visit to war-torn Mariupol”.
Kadyrov and his soldiers are close allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and are helping the Russian army in the war in Ukraine.
Where is Ramzan Kadyrov praying?
This photo is actually a screenshot of a 2-minute 16-second long video which was published on March 29 on several pro-Chechen Telegram channels. The video was also posted by the Chechen leader’s right-hand man, Magomed “Lord” Daudov.
The FRANCE 24 Observers team was able to pinpoint the location of the petrol station in the video. It’s a Rosneft petrol station located 239 km east of Mariupol in Krasnodar Krai, Russia. The station sits on the M-4 highway which runs between the Chechen capital Grozny and the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, which connects to Mariupol via the E58 highway.
Ramzan Kadyrov never claimed that this picture shows him praying in Mariupol
Many social media users and media outlets rushed to “fact check” this photo by pointing out that there are no Rosneft petrol stations in Ukraine, and that Kadyrov therefore must be lying about his whereabouts.
But Kadyrov never actually claimed that this particular image showed him in Mariupol. The caption underneath this video in the pro-Kadyrov Telegram channel where it was posted is “Короткая хроника поездки в Мариуполь” or “Brief chronicle of the trip to Mariupol”. The images are meant to show him during the journey to Mariupol, not inside or near the city.
As seen at the beginning of the video, Kadyrov is at the presidential palace in Grozny while it is still daylight, and then ends up at the gas station 730 km to the north at night. The journey between the two places would have taken him about nine hours according to Google Maps.
Kadyrov himself never relayed the video or a photo in which he is seen praying. On March 28, he published another video on his Telegram channel, which has more than 1.6 million followers, showing his trip to Mariupol, but this moment of prayer is not in that video.
No visual proof that Kadyrov was ever in Mariupol
Russian media picked up these social media posts and claimed on March 28 that Kadyrov had traveled to Mariupol to galvanise his troops. However, none of the videos or photos posted by the Chechen leader or other pro-Russian accounts offer any visual evidence that Kadyrov had indeed visited Mariupol. No videos show him outdoors or in any recognisable location in the city.
The questions surrounding Kadyrov’s visit are part of a larger war of propaganda images between Ukrainian and Russian camps, both vying to proclaim control of the port city.
>> Read more on The Observers: In Mariupol, a war of images to prove who controls the city