Posts use image of 2014 riot to wrongly compare days in Ukrainian capital before and after Russian invasion

Facebook posts with contrasting aerial images showing Ukraine’s capital Kiev, both spared from war and in ruins, have been shared hundreds of times with the claim that the images show the city before and after the Russian invasion. The claim is misleading; while the first image of the untouched city is fresh, the second showing the devastation in the capital was taken around eight years ago during deadly protests that ushered in a change of government.

On February 25, 2022, this Facebook post shared two images of Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Kyiv’s central square also known as Independence Square.

“The photo below shows the beauty of a city in the Ukrainian capital ‘Kiev’ in the morning. The 2nd photo shows the same ‘Kiev’ this afternoon after the Russian invasion. Effect of war (sic)” , reads the post, which was shared more than 600 times before being deleted.

A screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on March 1, 2022 (Mary KULUNDU)

Similar claims circulated with the same images on Facebook here, here and here.

On February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale ground invasion and air assault on Ukrainian cities. On the second day, the attacks reportedly reached the outskirts of Kiev, as explosions, which the Ukrainian government described as “horrible rocket fire”, were heard.

A day later, on February 26, AFP reported a missile attack on a residential building on the southwestern outskirts of Kiev, near Zhuliany airport.

Despite resistance, Russian soldiers continued to close in on Kiev (see AFP report here).

However, the image of the ruined city is old and unrelated to the current invasion.

2014 protests

A reverse image search located the image of the ruined town square in media reports (see here and here) from 2014 describing deadly anti-government protests in Kyiv.

Mass protests gripped Kiev in late November 2013 after former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych suspended talks on an Association Agreement with the European Union in favor of closer economic ties with Russia.

During the protests that lasted three months, up to 500,000 protesters gathered in Kyiv’s Independence Square and set up camp.

On February 18, 2014, protests turned violent after 20,000 people marched in parliament to demand that Yanukovych be stripped of his main powers. The photo shared on Facebook of Kiev was taken a day later by the Reuters news agency showing the aftermath (see here).

This image of Kiev was used in 2014 news reports after deadly protests

The second image purporting to show Kiev before Russia’s attack last month is a recent image captured in Washington Post video and posted on February 25, 2022.

A screenshot from the Washington Post website, taken March 1, 2022

Despite the threat of escalating violence in Kyiv, recent video reports filmed from Independence Square by AFP (February 24-25) also show the city center unscathed, as does a photo taken from the same location on March 1 by AFP photographer Sergei Supinsk.

A truck loaded with anti-tank barriers is parked in Independence Square in Kiev on March 1, 2022. ( AFP / SERGEI SUPINSKY)

Christi C. Elwood