False claim: Putin released lions on the streets of Russia to enforce coronavirus lockdown

Social media users have been sharing an image that appears to be a screen grab of a news report claiming Vladimir Putin released lions into the streets to keep people indoors because of the coronavirus outbreak ( here ).

While some users understood this to be fake, others seemed to believe it was true. Some of the comments on the post include, “Soooo what happens when the quarantine is over” and “What the??? Oh my god.”

The image does not show the logo or name of any news organization. The colors and layout of the image match those visible on the fake news generator website “Break Your Own News” ( ). Some versions of the image in this claim have the "Break Your Own News" watermark.

The website’s description reads, “The Breaking News Meme Generator - Today’s top story... you! Or, whatever you want. Add your pic, write the headline and we’ll go live to the scene. Sort of.”

Other examples of fake news generated by this website matching their template include "Cocaine kills coronavirus," ( here ), "Annex has first case of coronavirus" ( here ), and "Patient infected with COVID-19 comes back to life" ( here ).

A reverse image search on Google of the photograph in the claim brings up multiple media reports of a lion roaming the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2016. The lion, named Columbus, was borrowed from a lion park by a production company ( here , here ).


False: Putin did not release lions in Russia to keep people inside during the coronavirus outbreak

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