debunked

This photo of Ukraine plunged into darkness is photoshopped

Contrary to what social network users claim, this image does not show the extent of the ongoing power cuts in Ukraine in November 2022.
Contrary to what social network users claim, this image does not show the extent of the ongoing power cuts in Ukraine in November 2022. © Observers

Has the entire Ukrainian territory been plunged into darkness due to Russian bombing? That's what some people on social networks have been saying since November 23, while sharing what appears to be an aerial photograph of Europe. While millions of Ukrainians have indeed lost power, this image has been manipulated using a photo that dates back to 2012. 

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  • Since November 23, an aerial photo supposedly showing a "total blackout" in Ukraine has been circulating online.
  • According to those sharing the post, Russian bombing has led to widespread power cuts plunging Ukraine into darkness.
  • But the image is fake. It was edited using a photo that dates back to 2012, using a black filter over Ukraine.
  • Nearly 6 million Ukrainian households, however, have lost power due to the war. Still, these blackouts are not visible via satellite imagery. 

The fact-check, in detail

Since November 23, 2022, Facebook and Twitter accounts have been sharing a satellite image showing the European continent at night. On this map, Ukraine appears completely plunged into darkness, as if the whole country is now deprived of electricity. 

In reaction, some people supporting Ukraine claim that this "total blackout" is the work of the "criminal Putin". Other accounts favourable to the Russian president see it as a sign of the success of the Russian army's new strategy of targeting electrical infrastructure.

Screenshot of a tweet showing the photoshopped photo of Ukraine in the dark.
Screenshot of a tweet showing the photoshopped photo of Ukraine in the dark. © Twitter

To see whether this image is real or not, we first turned to forensic analysis tools, like those developed by InVid WeVerify (click here to find out how). 

Several filters in this tool show that in this image, the area over Ukraine has a different level of compression than all other areas. This indicates that this image might have been photoshopped.

Comparison between the photograph published on social networks since November 23, 2022 (right) and the result of its analysis on the Invid WeVerify tool. We can see that in this image, the area of Ukraine indicates a different level of compression corresponding to the completely black part on the right of the image.
Comparison between the photograph published on social networks since November 23, 2022 (right) and the result of its analysis on the Invid WeVerify tool. We can see that in this image, the area of Ukraine indicates a different level of compression corresponding to the completely black part on the right of the image. © Observers

To be sure, we ran the image through a reverse image search with the tool TinEye. The tool allows us to search for the image on online image banks like Shutterstock

Screenshot of the original image published by NASA Earth Observatory on December 7, 2012 on the Shutterstock online image bank.
Screenshot of the original image published by NASA Earth Observatory on December 7, 2012 on the Shutterstock online image bank. © Shutterstock

According to the caption on the image, this photo was posted online on December 7, 2012 by the NASA Earth Observatory. On the Observatory's site, you can also find the entire series of these images

In the original image, there are indeed city lights visible from the Ukrainian territory. Therefore, the image being shared online is an edited version of this 2012 photograph. 

Real power cuts, but not seen from the sky

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, major power outages have impacted Ukrainians, especially since the Russian army adopted a strategy of targeting Ukrainian infrastructure

Currently, several million homes in Ukrainian are reportedly without electricity. However, several satellite imagery sites, such as NASA WorldView, show that these blackouts have not caused Ukraine to appear completely plunged into darkness from above. Several cities remain well-lit. 

If we look at the date of publication of the tweet, November 23, it is possible to see that several parts of western Ukraine remained relatively well-lit.

Screenshot of the satellite image dated November 23, 2022 published by the NASA WorldView tool.
Screenshot of the satellite image dated November 23, 2022 published by the NASA WorldView tool. © NASA WorldView

Ukrainian authorities are gradually restoring power around the country, in particular by reconnecting the country's four nuclear power plants. Several European countries, including France, have sent power generators to Ukraine. 

The Ukrainian government estimates that, as of November 28, 6 million homes were still affected. According to FRANCE 24's correspondent in Ukraine, Gulliver Cragg, power cuts are still regularly occurring, particularly in the capital Kyiv.