Fact Check-Photos of Soviet Union flag were not captured amid 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

Contrary to online claims, a collage showing a Ukrainian flag being removed and a flag of the Soviet Union raised on a flagpole does not depict a recent scene in Mariupol during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The images have circulated online since at least since 2015.

Examples of posts made between April 18 and April 19 featuring the collage are viewable on Facebook ( here ) ( here ), Instagram ( here ) and Twitter ( here ) ( here ).

The photos are not recent and trace back to at least 2015, according to reverse search engine TinEye ( here ).

The collage appears to feature screengrabs of a video uploaded to YouTube on March 3, 2015 by an account identified as “Ghost Brigade” or “Battalion Prizrak”. ( here ), see around timestamp 1:01 ( ), 1:06 ( ), 1:22 ( ) and 1:24 ( ).

According to The Guardian ( here ) the separatist Prizrak or Ghost brigade took part in “some of the heaviest battles in Ukraine’s pro-Russian east” at the time. More information by the BBC ( here ).

Another 2015 iteration, which credited the clip to that same account, located the scene in the town of Debaltseve ( here ). Weeks earlier, on Feb. 18, pro-Russian separatists seized Debaltseve, site of a key battle in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict ( here ) ( here ).

Reuters was not able to independently verify the location of the video.


Miscaptioned. These images were not captured during the Russian invasion of Ukraine on April 2022; iterations of the collage have been circulating since at least 2015.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.