Fact Check-Image of Vitali Klitschko with machine gun is from a 2021 training day

A 2021 image of former heavyweight champion boxer Vitali Klitschko in military garb has been falsely linked on social media to him saying he would take up arms to defend Ukraine from the Russian invasion.

The photo shows Klitschko, who is serving as Kyiv’s mayor, in combat dress, down on one knee and holding a machine gun.

It has been shared as a meme with the caption: “Is there a more iconic photo right now from Ukraine? Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko defending his country” (here).

Other iterations can be seen on Facebook here, here, here, here, here, here and on Twitter here.

However, the picture can be traced back to March 13, 2021, when Klitschko took part in a combat training day in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region.

He posted the same image to his Instagram account, as well as further details about the session (here).

On Feb. 25, Klitschko said he would take up arms alongside his brother Wladimir – a fellow former world heavyweight boxing champion – after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (here).

“I don’t have another choice, I have to do that. I’ll be fighting,” the 50-year-old, known as “Dr Ironfist” during his fighting days, told British breakfast show Good Morning Britain.


Miscaptioned. The image of Vitali Klitschko holding a machine gun while wearing a combat uniform was not taken in 2022. It was taken at a military training centre in 2021.

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