Published on: 05/26/2022 – 15:34 Pro-Russian accounts circulated the photo of alleged Ukrainian soldiers belonging to the Azov regiment burning the Dutch flag, which they allegedly confused with the Russian flag. The publication attempts to portray these fighters as ignorant. In reality, the photo is taken from an anti-Ukrainian propaganda video, where the flag of the Netherlands was deliberately used. Verification in brief: A photo purporting to show Ukrainian soldiers setting fire to a Dutch flag is being shared by users to mock the fighters’ supposed mistake. In reality, the photo comes from a video published in 2016. It was a staging carried out by pro-Russian activists to discredit Ukraine with the Netherlands, at a time when the country was organizing a referendum on Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine. Verification in detail: On May 22, photos shared by pro-Russian accounts show alleged hooded Ukrainian soldiers setting fire to a flag of the Netherlands. “The extremely low education of Ukrainians has led them to confuse Russia with the Netherlands,” commented in a May 22 tweet one of the authors, Alexander Bunin, a Russian producer and journalist who has relayed misleading content from the start. of the war in Ukraine. The Russian flag also sports the colors blue white and red in horizontal bands but not in the same order as that of the Netherlands. Screenshot of Alexander Bunin’s May 22 tweet, claiming that Azov soldiers got the wrong flag. © Observers A Russian post on May 22 with the photo garnered over 550 likes, another Italian post garnered over 1,700 likes. A reverse image search ( see here how to proceed) shows that the video dates from January 2016. Our editorial team had also written an article on this video in March 2016, which claimed to show soldiers of the Azov regiment burning a flag of the Netherlands and threatening the country of reprisals if he did not vote in favor of a rapprochement between Ukraine and the European Union during an April 2016 referendum. According to our research at the time, the video had all the attributes of a pro-Russian staging used to discredit Ukraine. As we noted in this article, several inconsistencies can be noted. The video, published by an account named “Patriot”, refers in its description to another YouTube link; this video is unavailable when you click on this link, and the Internet user suggests that it has been deleted by the official channel of Azov. But the error message at the time was that of a broken link, not that of a video deleted by a user. In our article of March 2, 2016, we had published this screenshot, showing the link given by the channel “Patriot”. It displays a “not available” video, meaning the link does not link to any video © Observers The video was posted to YouTube accounts that have not posted other videos, suggesting they were created to distribute these images. In an article from April 2016, the investigative media Bellingcat explains why the video is most likely the work of a Russian “troll factory”: there is no trace of circulation of the video on the social networks of the Azov regiment. Screenshots from the Azov battalion’s YouTube channel had also been edited, in order to make it appear that the video had indeed been published by Azov’s YouTube channel, which was not the case. In January 2016, the Azov Battalion assured Stopfake, a Ukrainian fact-checking outlet, that it had nothing to do with this video. Conclusion, this image does not show the Azov fighters allegedly using the wrong flag. It comes from an old video purporting to show fighters from the Azov regiment burning the flag of the Netherlands, a very likely Russian propaganda set-up. A referendum was held in the Netherlands in April 2016, asking the Dutch whether or not they approved the association agreement between the European Union and Ukraine. It was a rapprochement agreement between the EU and Ukraine, including a free trade agreement. If a majority of Dutch voted against, the referendum was advisory, and the Netherlands eventually ratified the treaty. Azov is a nationalist battalion integrated into the Ukrainian army. Formed in May 2014 to fight against pro-Russian separatists, it was originally a group of a hundred volunteers with nationalist, even neo-Nazi ideas. In November 2014, he was integrated into the Ukrainian army, following the Minsk agreements which called for the withdrawal of paramilitary groups in the context of the conflict in Donbass. The ideological orientation of the Azov regiment has become an argument of the Russian authorities to defend the war in Ukraine, because they see it as proof that Ukraine must be “denazified”.
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