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FACTCHECK

Debunked: No, these are not photos of the President and First Lady of Ukraine fighting on the front line

The photos widely shared on Facebook and Twitter are old and out of context.

THE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT launched a thousand memes last week when he turned down an evacuation offer with his memorable lines “I need ammunition, not a lift”.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has won international praise and even inspired a line of t-shirts for choosing to remain in the country last week despite the Russian invasion and direct threats to his life. 

Throughout the invasion Zelenskky used social media to prove that he’s still in the country while encouraging Ukranians to continue military resistance against Russian forces. 

A trend has emerged of social media posts showing Zelenskyy in combat uniform, with captions praising him as a “a hero standing with his people on the frontline” who was joining “the troops in fighting to protect the Ukrainian homeland“.

Screenshot 2022-03-04 17.18.40 Social post praising the President of Ukraine for being on the front line.

According to other posts, Zelenskyy has been joined by his wife Olena Zelenska on the front line – with images showing the First Lady armed with a gun in military uniform. 

Screenshot 2022-03-04 17.23.46 Facebook post claiming this photo is of the First Lady of Ukraine on the front line

While photos of Zelenskyy and his wife joining the front line in solidarity with Ukrainian soldiers might be reassuring and therefore shareable for some, are they real?

Screenshot 2022-03-04 17.18.06 Facebook post praising the President of Ukraine as a 'true leader' for joining 'the troops in fighting'

In a nutshell, no. They are ‘real’ photos in the sense they haven’t been manipulated, but they are not photos of the President and his wife on the front lines of the conflict against Russian military. 

The photo of the ‘First Lady of Ukraine’ holding a gun while wearing a full face of make-up is not the President’s wife. For a start, Olena Zelenska has blonde hair according to her latest Instagram photos. The female soldier in the photo is a brunette. 

A reverse-image search shows the same photo on a stock image site. According to the caption the photo shows an unnamed Ukrainian female soldier at a parade rehearsal for the 30th Anniversary of Ukrainian Independence.

The image was taken in August, 2021 almost six months before the conflict began. It is not from ‘the front line’ and it is not the Ukrainian first lady. 

The photos of Zelenskyy in military garb were also taken in 2021 before the current invasion began.

The photos according to newswire AFP were taken by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on April 9 2021 and show Zelenskyy visiting the Mariupol region.

The caption reads ‘President Volodymyr Zelensky walking on the front line with Russia backed separatists.’ While the President did visit the frontline in April 2021, these are not photos of him ‘joining the troops in fighting’ during the current conflict.

While he dispatched defiant social media videos from Kyiv early in the invasion, his current location is unknown as artillery attacks intensify on the city. There has been no official indication that he has joined forces on the front lines. 

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