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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke May 19, 2022

No, this photo of Ukrainians training for combat doesn’t prove the war is fake

If Your Time is short

  • A Reuters photo of Ukrainians training for combat is being used as supposed evidence that the war there is fake. It’s not. 

A screenshot of a tweet by conservative activist Jack Posobiec is spreading on social media as evidence that the war in Ukraine is staged. 

In the May 16 tweet, Reuters tweeted a story about the war in Ukraine and the country’s report that it had held off a Russian incursion in the Sumy region there. The tweet included a photo of four people in camo crouching close to the ground and holding weapons. 

Posobiec shared the Reuters tweet, writing, "Those are paintball guns, Reuters."

As that retweet has spread, so have the claims that the war isn’t real. 

"One big theater production," one person wrote on Posobiec’s Instagram post sharing the screenshot his tweet.  

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.)

The photo that Reuters tweeted is not an image of Ukrainians repelling a Russian incursion in the Sumy region. That story was published on May 16. 

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The photo in the tweet was taken on April 15 by Reuters photographer Zohra Bensemra and it shows a training exercise in Sumy — not a live firefight. 

"Members of the territorial defense force attend a training simulation for raiding a building occupied by enemy forces as they prepare for new assault, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, outside an abandoned building in Sumy," the photo’s caption says. 

The caption does not specify what kind of gun the people in the photos are holding, but some social media users have highlighted what looks like the part of a paintball gun that holds the paintballs.

Social media posts have previously misrepresented photos of people in Ukraine holding wooden guns during training exercises as proof the war is fake. 


Trudy Rubin, a foreign affairs columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote from outside of Kyiv in February that civilian trainees were "practicing with cardboard guns or plastic paintball guns or hunting rifles from home until they are provided military weapons." 

Even members of the U.S. military have used paintball guns for training exercises. 

The war in Ukraine is real, and it has been well-documented by reporters and citizens on the ground in the country. 

We rate claims that this photo proves it’s being staged Pants on Fire.


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No, this photo of Ukrainians training for combat doesn’t prove the war is fake

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