An image of two men armed with mock rifles is being shared to underplay the Russian attack on Ukraine. It is being suggested that the Russian invasion is “staged” or “fake”. The viral image is a screengrab from a broadcast aired by American news channel Fox News. The text below the image on the Fox News broadcast is not entirely visible but a part of its reads, “Ukrainian civilians take…”

Twitter user @Gunner_Vitale posted this image and gained over 19,000 retweets and close to one lakh likes.

Several Twitter and Facebook users have posted this image.


Alt News performed a keyword search and found a Business Insider report with the headline: “An image of Ukrainians holding wooden guns has sparked baseless claims on social media that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is staged.”

Next, we performed a keyword search on various stock image websites and found that a contributor named ‘Ukrinform’ uploaded this image on February 19 on Shutterstock.

The photo caption of the image reveals the context – two men with rifle cutouts take cover behind a corner during the territorial defence drill for civilians given by Azov Regiment veterans in Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine.

On February 26, Fox News aired this image during its morning broadcast show on Ukrainian citizens taking up arms to counter the Russian invasion. The viral image appears 6:43 minutes into the broadcast. It is worth noting the bulletin neither gives the context that the image represents a drill nor does it state that it was taken a week ago, before Russia’s assault on Ukraine.

To sum it up, an image of a territorial defence drill in Ukraine, shot before Russia invaded the country, was misrepresented on social media. The image was picked up from a Fox News bulletin where it was shared without proper context.

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About the Author

🙏 Blessed to have worked as a fact-checking journalist from November 2019 to February 2023.