Parties in Kyiv nightclubs in the midst of war? Watch out for these misleading images
A video compilation that has been circulating since May 3 claims to show that – despite the war – the party is in full swing in Kyiv's nightclubs, taking advantage of foreign donations to Ukraine's war effort. Most of these images date from before the war, however, and some of the establishments where they were filmed have been closed since the conflict began in February 2022.
If you only have a minute
- Several posts, including one with a video viewed more than 8 million times, claim to show current scenes of the nightlife in Kyiv, apparently showing that the population of Ukraine is using donations from the West to throw these parties despite the war.
- The footage in the video, however, comes from scenes filmed in 2021, or in establishments that have been closed since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.
- Nightlife has indeed resumed in Kyiv over the past few months after the curfew in the city was extended to midnight in March.
- However, the venues shown in these videos say they have not received any donations, instead organising parties to donate their profits to the Ukrainian army.
The fact-check, in detail
"Meanwhile in Kyiv nightclubs … Please donate more money!" says the Twitter account @RadioGenova, which often shares pro-Russian disinformation, above a video compilation showing Ukrainians partying in nightclubs.
"So they've gotten donations so that they can go to the club," says another user (in French) who shared the video, video 8.6 million times since it was published on May 3. Others had similar reactions, arguing that foreign aid shouldn't be used to fund parties in Ukraine.
Clues show us two clips are from 2021
The video is a compilation of four different clips that were taken from the TikTok account @kievnight, which shared videos of parties at bars and nightclubs across the Ukrainian capital.
The first 27 seconds of the video, for example, were filmed at a bar and nightclub called the Fifty Club. We found the location using the full video published on December 23, 2022 on TikTok. The poster claims in a comment that the video was filmed in 2021.
To verify these claims, the FRANCE 24 Observers team took a closer look at the Fifty Club's posts on social media.
The same scene was filmed and posted the evening of November 19, 2021. Videos show the same man with a microphone wearing a pink t-shirt – the Ukrainian artist Dred, who was performing that day. The same yellow decorations are also visible on the wall.
The same goes for the clip visible at the end of the video compilation, between 1:22 and 1:33. We see people dancing in a bar and a television screen that says "Boho".
This video was published on December 4, 2021 by the @kievnight TikTok account, two and a half months before the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine.
The FRANCE 24 Observers team reached out to the restaurant, which claims that the video is even older than that, explaining that much of the decor visible in the video has been replaced over the past three years. They provided us with photos to support this, including one that shows a fridge behind the young woman dancing in the middle of the image above.
Videos from establishments that have been closed for months
So what about the last two clips in the video, appearing between 0:27 and 1:22?
These two videos can also be found on the @kievnight TikTok account, with the hashtag #TBT, or Throwback Thursday, used to share old posts.
The TikTok account did not respond to our request for comment about these two clips. Howver, we were able to find out where these videos were filmed.
The first one (appearing from 0:27-0:57) shows a bar called Sparks, which has a recognisable red ceiling as seen in several videos on its social media. We also noticed the same speaker hanging on the wall (in blue below).
However, Sparks has been inactive on social media since January 2022. While we were unable to reach the establishment, others that we spoke to for this article told us that it has been closed since the start of the war.
The final clip (from 0:57 to 1:22) was filmed at Hangover, as indicated by outdoor furniture visible in photos online. The establishment is seasonal, open only between June and August each year.
It closed its door at the end of summer 2022, as explained in its posts online, but claims to remain open for private events. The exact date of this video is difficult to ascertain, but the clothes of the people in the video suggest it was filmed in the summer of 2022 at the latest.
Is nightlife totally at a standstill in Kyiv?
Even if these videos are old or show currently closed establishments, that doesn't mean that nightlife has completely stopped in the Ukrainian capital during the war.
On March 17, the head of Kyiv's city administration Serhiy Popko, extended the citywide curfew from 11pm to midnight. Since then, most bars and nightclubs close down around 10 or 10:30pm in order to allow their employees the time to get home, according to the Guardian.
The British media also reported that "a select number of hotels and a handful of secret bars in Kyiv have continued to operate well into the night, hosting foreign fighters, expats and a few Ukrainians, though mostly women", even before the curfew was extended.
Employees of the Fifty Club and Boho told the FRANCE 24 Observers team that they remain open. The Fifty Club is open "only on Saturdays, from 4pm to 11pm", while Boho is open "every day from 12pm to 11pm", adding that there aren't parties every day.
Are nightclubs in Ukraine using foreign aid funds?
Both of these venues told us they haven't received any external donations since the start of the war. On the contrary, they said they regularly organise charity events. Boho told us they've held three such events since January 2023, collecting "more than one million hryvnias in donations [24,000 euros]" which they've sent to the Ukrainian army.
Jay Fokin, owner of the Fifty Club, told us more:
We never asked for any donations to keep the business going. We started making charity events and concerts to raise some money for the army, but this was working well only in the first month of war. Now, people have less money and savings, and most of them have their own vision on how to send donations and for what.
For me now, it is not about making money, but mainly to save the team and business. When you have 300+ people involved in your projects, you don’t actually have too many options. Plus, you can’t make people drink and spend money in the evening the same as it was at night.
These people who comment and share this video, they've never been to Kyiv. They are not living everyday with sirens and missile strikes and they do not understand how tired people are emotionally. In my opinion, if the entertainment sector was working properly, it would be better for the people who are living under stress everyday.
The FRANCE 24 Observers team was unable to find any examples in the Ukrainian press or social media of restaurants or nightclubs claiming they've received international donations or funding.