No, this Ukrainian general isn’t wearing a bracelet with a swastika on it
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Did the commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces publish a photo of himself wearing a bracelet with a swastika on it? That’s what some Russian media outlets and pro-Russian social media accounts have been reporting since October 9, 2022. While the photo is authentic, the compression of the image and the poor resolution quality make it possible to mistake the symbol on his bracelet for the Nazi cross. In reality, however, it is a Celtic knot.
If you only have a minute
Since October 9, 2022, certain Twitter and Facebook accounts have been sharing a photo of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valerii Fedorovych Zaluzhnyi, which they claim shows him wearing a bracelet adorned with a swastika.
However, the bracelet looks just like one sold by the popular Ukrainian company Pakabone. The symbol on the bracelet is actually a Celtic knot. However, the poor resolution of the image makes it possible to mistake the symbol for a swastika.
So that means that this is a simple optical illusion exploited by pro-Russian accounts to connect Ukraine and Nazi ideology.
The verification, in detail
The photo, which at first glance seems banal, shows General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces, wearing camouflage and carrying a weapon. However, since October 9, 2022, Russian media and pro-Russian social media accounts have been using this image to feed into Russia’s argument that the Ukrainian government is full of a bunch of neo-Nazis. These accounts claim that there is a swastika on the bracelet the commander is wearing.
Russian news outlet Russia Today published an article about the bracelet on October 9, 2022. It was also picked up by certain pro-Russian accounts on Twitter (check out, for example, this post shared more than 12,000 times) and on Facebook. These posts feature the original photo as well as a zoomed-in image showing what looks like the Nazi symbol.
“This is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Ukraine wearing a bracelet with a swastika. But NATO insists there are no Nazis in Ukraine,” reads this tweet in English that was retweeted 3,000 times.
In France, the image was picked up and shared by the former presidential candidate François Asselineau, known for his pro-Russian positions. His tweet, published on October 10, was shared more than 1,900 times. Lawyer Juan Branco also shared this information in a post that garnered more than 1,800 retweets.
However, it turns out that this photo of the commander-in-chief is old. It appeared, for example, in a tweet back on March 17, 2022 by the official account of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence.
However, the photo has reemerged over the last few days, primarily because it was posted again by Zaluzhnyi himself on his official Twitter account on October 6, along with a message calling for continued fighting.
As for the bracelet, it seems to appear again in this photo of the commander-in-chief published on December 1, 2021 by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. It seems to appear again in images posted in April 2022 (here for example).
However, there are a few clues that what might appear, at first glance, to be a swastika is actually a Celtic symbol.
We found a bracelet that looks just like the one worn by the commander-in-chief on the website of the Ukrainian company Pakabone. Both are made up of metal squares with different symbols lined up one next to another.
Anatoly Shtefan, an officer with the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said that the bracelet was indeed made by this company in a Facebook post from October 9, 2022.
Several Twitter accounts demonstrated how one of the pieces that make up the bracelet could look like a swastika if the image was blurred or compressed.
This bracelet piece, which is called “Silver bead with Scandinavian motif” on the website, looks like Solomon’s Knot, which is a “Celtic knot”, a symbol often used in Celtic culture.
This “knot” also appears in designs made by other cultures. You can see it in Roman mosaics, for example, and in synagogues, churches and mosques, as it says on the website SymbolSage. Made up of two interlaced rings, the symbol represents “eternal love, eternity and the union of humans with the divine.”
If you put an image of Solomon's Knot next to an image of the design sold by Pakabone, then you’ll quickly see how similar they are.
Other pieces on the bracelet, which can be seen in the photo shared over the past few days as well as other images taken in the past, also look like pieces sold by Pakabone.
Pakabone said in a Facebook post on October 10, 2022 that it had made the commander’s bracelet. It also published a comparison between the original bracelet and the lower-quality image that has been circulating, showing how it can make things confusing.
As for the piece that many have said looks like a swastika, the company said that isn’t the case.
“It’s a charm with a Scandinavian design on it. Ornaments that Vikings used for both daily and ritual objects, jewellery and ships,” the company said.
More on the bracelets
Even after posts showing how the charm that looked like a swastika was, in fact, a Celtic symbol, some accounts refused to believe it. They pointed out that the order of the symbols wasn’t the same in the bracelet sold by the company and the bracelet worn by the commander-in-chief (check out this Twitter post).
Our team tried to contact Pakabone, but, for the time being, they haven’t responded. However, on the Ukrainian company’s website, you can see that it is possible to buy a leather bracelet and then add charms of your choice, including the one featuring Solomon’s Knot.
This could also explain the different order of the pieces of the bracelet.