debunked

No, Ukrainian fans were not responsible for Nazi graffiti at the World Cup

Contrary to the story shared by numerous Twitter accounts, this graffiti, including Nazi symbology, didn’t appear near Al-Bayt stadium on November 20, 2022. Moreover, the video in question was not made by Qatari channel Al-Jazeera.
Contrary to the story shared by numerous Twitter accounts, this graffiti, including Nazi symbology, didn’t appear near Al-Bayt stadium on November 20, 2022. Moreover, the video in question was not made by Qatari channel Al-Jazeera. © Observers

Numerous accounts on Twitter and Telegram have been sharing a video they say is a report by Al Jazeera showing Nazi graffiti left by Ukrainian football fans during the kickoff game of the World Cup in Qatar on November 20. The media outlet, however, says that they didn’t make this video. Moreover, a number of clues have allowed us to establish that this is a fake news report and that the Nazi graffiti was, in fact, photoshopped.

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If you only have a minute

  • Since November 22, 2022, French, English and Russian-language Twitter and Telegram accounts have been sharing a video they say is a report by Al Jazeera in English. The video claims that, on November 2022, Ukrainian supporters were arrested during the kickoff game of the World Cup in Qatar for vandalising several posters and covering them with Nazi graffiti. 
  • However, there are some visual clues in the video that help us establish that this report includes old footage that has no connection to the World Cup in Qatar. Moreover, Qatari media outlet Al Jazeera denied that they had made this video. 
  • Furthermore, none of the FRANCE 24 correspondents who attended the kickoff game at Al-Bayt stadium saw this graffiti … or even Ukrainian fans, for that matter. Turns out, the Nazi tag you can see in this fake report has been photoshopped.

The fact-check, in detail

English, French and Russian-language Twitter accounts have been spreading the story that Ukrainian football fans were arrested after adding a Nazi salute and a Hitler moustache to an image of Laib, the mascot of the FIFA World Cup. The rumour also spread on other social media networks.

This tweet says, in French, “Ukrainian football fans were arrested in Qatar for spreading Nazi symbols in Doha. The men were taken into custody after adding a Nazi salute and a 'Hitler moustache' to a photo of Laib, the mascot of the FIFA World Cup.”

This is a screengrab of a tweet published on November 22, 2022 that includes a fake news report that was wrongly attributed to Al Jazeera.
This is a screengrab of a tweet published on November 22, 2022 that includes a fake news report that was wrongly attributed to Al Jazeera. © Observers

Since November 22, 2022, these accounts have been sharing a video report they attribute to Al Jazeera. The 50-second video features the logo of the Qatari channel. It also has the same “look” as other videos that the channel posts on social media. The video features footage that supposedly shows Qatari law enforcement arresting Ukrainian fans on November 20, 2022 for having vandalised about a dozen posters, covering them with Nazi graffiti. 

There are a number of tweets featuring this video that have garnered more than 150,000 views. On November 24, the official Twitter account of the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom shared a screengrab of this video. 

This is a screengrab of a tweet posted on November 24, 2022 by the official account of the Russian Embassy in London.
This is a screengrab of a tweet posted on November 24, 2022 by the official account of the Russian Embassy in London. © Observers

It seems as if this video was first posted the morning of November 22, 2022 on the Telegram channel of "ЮГ LIVE", a Russian television program hosted by journalists Dmitry Bazhenov and Vladimir Soloviev. The video was posted on the channel at 10:15 am on November 22 and already has nearly 400,000 views. Vladimir Solovyov also shared the video on his personal channel at 10:21. The video currently has more than 300,000 views. 

Solovyov is a star journalist with the Russian TV channel Rossiya-1 and is well-known for his ultra-nationalist views. An ardent defender of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Solovyov recently called Emmanuel Macron a "satanist". Our colleagues at CheckNews, the fact-checking team at French media outlet Libération, described Solovyov as a "Kremlin propagandist".

This is a screengrab of posts shared the morning of November 22, 2022 on the Telegram channels of ЮГ LIVE (at the right) and Russian journalist Vladimir Soloviev (left).
This is a screengrab of posts shared the morning of November 22, 2022 on the Telegram channels of ЮГ LIVE (at the right) and Russian journalist Vladimir Soloviev (left). © Observers

A video falsely attributed to Al Jazeera

Not so fast, Solovyov. Journalist Brecht Castel, a member of the fact-checking team at Belgian media outlet Knack, explained in an article on this video that this report is impossible to find on Al Jazeera’s site. He also contacted the team at the Qatari channel who confirmed that '"Al Jazeera has never published this video". On November 24, 2022, Al Jazeera posted a statement on Twitter explaining that it had no connection to the video. 

Some of this footage was filmed during the World Cup in Qatar, but other bits of footage are older.  

We carried out a reverse image search on footage from the video (click here to find out how) and it was immediately apparent that the footage showing Ukrainian fans at the stadium dates from way before this year's World Cup. It was used, for example, in a TV report published on February 4, 2022 by a Russian media outlet to illustrate an article about an indoor football match.

The same thing goes for the footage that is supposed to show Ukrainian supporters. Belgian media outlet Knack explains that the uniforms worn by the police in this footage are different to those worn by the Qatari security forces deployed during the World Cup. So this video is a mix of footage filmed during this year’s World Cup and older footage. 

Non-existent Nazi graffiti 

There are a few other clues that point to another issue with the footage – that the Nazi graffiti that appears in several images never existed. The FRANCE 24 Observers team contacted the team of FRANCE 24 special correspondents who travelled to Qatar to cover the 2022 World Cup. 

Romain Houeix, one of the sports journalists from this team, attended the kickoff match of the World Cup on November 20, 2022 at Al-Bayt stadium. The report that has been circulating online claims that Ukrainian fans vandalised about a dozen posters around the stadium. 

“No one on our team saw anything like that,” Houeix told us. “I can also say that no one has run into any Ukrainian fans in Qatar since the start of the World Cup."

This absence of Ukrainian fans makes sense because Ukraine’s national team didn’t qualify for this year’s World Cup. 

We used also forensic analysis tools (check out here how to use them) to analyse the footage and discovered that the part of the image with the text in German has a different pixel rate than the rest of the image.

This screengrab shows forensic analysis on the image of Nazi graffiti performed by journalist Brecht Castel using a tool called MeVer. It was quickly apparent that the graffiti has a different resolution than the rest of the image, meaning it was almost certainly edited together.
This screengrab shows forensic analysis on the image of Nazi graffiti performed by journalist Brecht Castel using a tool called MeVer. It was quickly apparent that the graffiti has a different resolution than the rest of the image, meaning it was almost certainly edited together. © Brecht Castel

Belgian media outlet Knack also spoke with Hannes Mareen, a researcher at the University of Gand who specialises in image analysis. He explained the variance in resolution makes it look as if the German text was "added to the original photo".

A number of fake news reports have circulated since the start of the war in Ukraine. Last May, a fake news report falsely attributed to the BBC claimed that Poland was preparing to attack Ukraine. A month earlier, another fake BBC news report claimed that Ukraine was responsible for the attack in Kramatorsk.