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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke September 22, 2022

Old photo of military exercise used to illustrate story about Russia’s war in Ukraine

If Your Time is short

  • This photo is from a joint military exercise involving India and Russia in 2017. 
  • It doesn’t show recent fighting in Ukraine. 

The Russian news outlet Pravda recently shared a story on Facebook that claimed the Ukrainian army had been "destroyed almost entirely." 

The Sept. 21 post featured a link to a news story with a photo that appears to show three soldiers crouching in a trench, dressed in combat uniforms and bearing machine guns. A barbed-wire fence and plumes of orange smoke can be seen behind them. 

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 Meta, which owns Facebook.)

Given the post's claim that Ukraine will "capitulate by early 2023," Facebook users might think the photo shows recent fighting in Eastern Europe, where Ukrainians have been trying to fight off a Russian invasion.  

But the image is old; it was posted on the website of the Russia news outlet Sputnik in 2017. Its caption read: "Marines of the Pacific Fleet of the Russian Federation and servicemen of a special unit of the Indian Armed Forces are disembarking at the stage of the first interspecific Russian-Indian exercises ‘Indra-2017’ at the landing range ‘Clerk.’"


The joint military exercise involved Indian and Russian armed forces and it was conducted in Russia’s eastern military district from Oct. 19 to Oct. 29, 2017, according to a press release from India’s defense ministry. 

Returning to the present, the BBC reported Sept. 20 that Ukrainian forces have "made rapid gains in recent days and have recaptured territory in the Russian-occupied Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine." Russian forces still control about a fifth of Ukraine, BBC said. 

We rate claims that this photo shows recent fighting in Ukraine False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, Sept. 21, 2022

Indian Defence Ministry, Exercise INDRA - 2017: Indo-Russia Joint Exercise, Oct. 16, 2017

BBC, Ukraine war: Who is winning?, Sept. 20, 2022

Sputnik News, The brightest photos of the week: October 28 - November 3, Nov. 5, 2017, Special operation will end by spring 2023 with Ukraine's capitulation, Sept. 19, 2022

Los Angeles Times, McCain blasts Putin in Pravda op-ed, says Russians deserve better, Sept. 19, 2013

National Review, Dear Senator McCain: is not Pravda, Sept. 19, 2013


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Old photo of military exercise used to illustrate story about Russia’s war in Ukraine

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