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Horror claim Ukraine war is ‘fake’ sparks frenzy – Kyiv accused of using ‘crisis actors’

Volodymyr Zelensky warns of fake news in February

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Two weeks ago, on February 24, Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, making it the largest conventional military attack in Europe since World War II. In the early hours, Putin announced a “special military operation” and minutes later, missiles struck places across Ukraine, including Kyiv, the national capital.

The invasion has been condemned on an international scale, prompting new sanctions imposed on Russia and triggering a Russian financial crisis.

Since news of the invasion began to circulate, there has also been a flow of false or misleading information.

Fabricated posts with pictures and videos claiming to prove the war in Ukraine is false have been going viral on social media.

The BBC has fact-checked a number of posts claiming to “prove” that the war in Ukraine is a fake or a hoax.

One such posts claims actors are being made up to look like victims of the Ukraine war.

The false claims about “crisis actors” being used in the eastern European country stem from a video of a young woman and a young man having fake blood applied to their faces, which has racked up millions of views on multiple platforms.

The claim accompanying the footage is that crisis actors – civilians pretending to be casualties of war – are being deployed to fake the war in Ukraine.

The footage instead dates from 2020 and was filmed on the production set of Ukrainian TV series Contamin.

The male actor that features in the footage can also be seen in behind-the-scenes images shared from the set, which were tweeted in December 2020.

Another video claims to show a journalist reporting from Ukraine against the backdrop of a field of black body bags.

The footage has been spread widely by pro-Kremlin accounts, and as the news report continues one of the body bags starts moving, a man removes the cover and is attended to by a photographer.

Social media posts claim the video was shot in Ukraine and that the footage proves the war is either a hoax or manufactured by “Western propaganda”.

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However, the footage was instead shot at a climate-change protest in Vienna in early February.

Organised by “Friday for Future” climate activists, the protest saw people pretending to be dead to show the impact of carbon emissions on human life.

A screenshot of a Fox News broadcast shows two Ukrainian men wielding wooden guns.

Those sharing the screenshot claim it proves the war is not real.

Instead, the footage dates back to mid-February before the conflict began, and shows civilians training to defend Ukraine.

Other instances see mainstream media news outlets accounts being faked or spoofed to spread lies.

One story uses fake CNN Twitter accounts to claim that a CNN journalist was killed in Ukraine.

The accounts have since been suspended by Twitter, and the man pictured is instead a YouTube gamer.

A CNN representative told fact-checkers from Reuters the posts were “absolute fiction”.

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