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- Russia has leaned on claims that Ukraine has killed Russian speakers in the country and that Russians are the targets of genocide there, but there’s no evidence to support that.
Russia has deployed a misinformation campaign as the country invades Ukraine, creating, as the New York Times put it, "an alternate reality where the invasion is justified and Ukrainians are to blame for violence."
A recent Facebook post seems to echo Russian talking points, claiming that "for eight years, Ukraine has been shooting residents of Donetsk and Lugansk just because they wanted to speak Russian."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
We’ve previously debunked Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims that ethnic Russians are Ukrainian targets of genocide. He called Russia’s attack on Ukraine a mission "to protect people who, for eight years now, have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kyiv regime." But there’s no evidence to support this. Civilian deaths in Eastern Ukraine have plummeted, according to the United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights.
We also found no evidence to support the claim that people are being assassinated for wanting to speak Russian.
On March 11, NPR aired a story in which reporter Eleanor Beardsley traveled across Ukraine to investigate Putin’s claims that Russian-speakers were being killed there.
"That’s a big hoax," said the owner of a language school in Kyiv where students primarily study Russian. "There’s nothing of that going on."
Ukraine’s Parliament has made Ukrainian the country’s official language, , but the law doesn’t prohibit the use of Russian and most of the country speaks it fluently, Beardsley reported. Russian is Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenksy’s first language.
Vadim Lyakh, mayor of Slovyansk, a town in the eastern Donbas region, said "there’s absolutely no discrimination" and that while the town’s official correspondence is in Ukrainian, "people continue to speak Russian at work and at home, as we always have."
Since Russia’s military presence started growing on Ukraine’s borders in December, "claims of ‘genocide’ of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine have been a constant background hum on Russian state propaganda channels," Russian journalist and fact-checker Alexey Kovalev told the New York Times.
The U.S. State Department calls this framing "Russophobia," a label the Russian government uses whenever it "wants to play the victim, when it is actually the aggressor."
Ukraine appealed to the U.N.’s International Court of Justice in the Hague to rule on the Russian government’s claims of genocide "in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts of Ukraine," calling them false. The court ruled 13-2 on March 16 that the Kremlin’s justification for the war was unjustified and ordered Russia to stop its invasion. Judges from Russia and China were the two dissenting votes.
We rate this post False.
Facebook post, March 20, 2022
The New York Times, Putin’s Baseless Claims of Genocide Hint at More Than War, Feb. 19, 2022
The Guardian, Mayor of Melitopol released after abduction - as it happened, March 17, 2022
U.S. Department of State, Russia’s Top Five Persistent Disinformation Narratives, Jan. 20, 2022
PolitiFact, Vladimir Putin repeats false claim of genocide in Ukraine, Feb. 25, 2022
NPR, Putin claimed Russian-speakers were being killed in Ukraine. Was that true?, March 11, 2022
International Court of Justice, Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Ukraine v. Russian Federation), March 16, 2022
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