While the war in Ukraine rages on, exploits of the "Ghost of Kyiv" are becoming famous. However, the video capturing it is actually game footage.
Californian Republican Hiram Johnson (1866-1945) said during World War 1 that “the first casualty, when war comes, is truth.” Every major conflict is accompanied with the sacrifice of truth for the sake of serving an agenda – perhaps the most prominent in recent memory being the mythology of Weapons of Mass destruction in Iraq. Although the War in Ukraine is not even a week old, there has been numerous fake news reporting’s emanating from Kiev that do not correspond with reality.
The first lie to emerge during the war was the so-called “Ghost of Kyiv”, a mysterious and unverified pilot who supposedly destroyed five Russian jets and a helicopter on February 24. By the next day, a video went viral that showed the “Ghost of Kyiv” in action and downing a Russian aircraft – the problem? It was actually fake footage from the 2013 PC game Digital
Combat Simulator: World.
A spokesperson for the gaming company, Matthias Techmanski, told Reuters that: “We are not responsible for [the video’s] distribution, nor do we endorse such content.” In fact, Twitter has flagged some of the most liked and retweeted versions of the “Ghost of Kyiv” video as “media presented out of context” – yet, Ukrainian news sources like NEXTA have refused to delete the video.
The ”Ghost of Kyiv” propaganda is hardly an isolated incident though, and was followed up with another hoax pushed by Ukraine and disseminated in Western media. A viral video published on February 24 ‘showed’ a broken Ukrainian father saying goodbye to his daughter fleeing for safety. As the New York Post wrote: “A Ukrainian father broke down in tears as he said goodbye to his partner and young daughter as they allegedly boarded a bus for safety while he remained behind to fight, a heartbreaking viral video shows.”
The truth though?
The original video was taken by a local in the city of Gorlovka in the Russian-controlled part of the Donetsk region on February 21. In fact, video and photo analysis found that the ads that are on the windows of the buses refer to the transport company “Premium Taxi”, which operates in Russia-controlled Gorlovka.
However, perhaps the biggest fake news story to go viral from Kiev was the supposed 13 Ukrainian ‘martyrs’ who in an act of ‘defiance’ said “Russian warship, go f*** yourself” when urged to surrender Snake Island. Western media excitedly shared a purported audio exchange as the Russians approached the Black Sea island, also known as Zmiinyi Island.
A Russian naval officer can be heard saying: “This is a military warship. This is a Russian military warship. I suggest you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and needless casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombed.”
A Ukrainian soldier responds: “Russian warship, go f*** yourself.”
After this audio went viral, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “All border guards died heroically but did not give up. They will be awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine posthumously.”
However, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said in a statement on February 26: “We [have a] strong belief that all Ukrainian defenders of Zmiinyi (Snake) Island are alive. After receiving information about their possible location, the [border guard service] together with the Armed Forces of Ukraine are conducting work on identifying our soldiers.”
Although Western media were quick to ‘immortalise’ the 13 Ukrainians, they were silent on Kiev’s authorities announcing their suspicion that the soldiers were actually still alive.
Following this Ukrainian statement, the Russian Defense Ministry revealed that the Ukrainian servicemen are in fact still alive after “voluntarily” surrendering to Russian troops. The ministry even released photos showing the men boarding buses and being given bottled water and food. The Russian Defense Ministry also revealed that a total of 82 Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island had surrendered to Russia voluntarily, meaning there was far more than the 13 Ukrainians on the island that we were led to believe.
All of these fake news story relating to Ukraine are quickly circulated around the world. If one was to believe social media, it would appear that Russia has failed in its war effort in these early stages. The continuous dissemination of fakes news, in which only three examples were provided in this article among many others that could have also been made, demonstrates that fake news is being used as a powerful rallying cry and morale boost, especially as the Russian Army is at Kiev’s gates.
The orchestrated spread of unverified information aims to influence public opinion in an age of instantaneous communication, and it is certainly having an affect as fake news is being spread widely but not retracted when exposed as fake. However, fake news being rapidly spread on social media does not change the reality on the ground in Ukraine.