Photo shows Slovakian soldier returning from Afghanistan in 2012 -- it does not relate to Ukraine

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

After Russia's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, an image of a man kissing a woman's pregnant belly circulated in online posts that claimed it shows a Ukrainian soldier kissing his "unborn child goodbye" as he prepared to fight for his country. But the image -- which has been shared hundreds of times -- has circulated in a false context. It was originally published by the Slovakian defence ministry in a 2012 post about soldiers returning from a mission in Afghanistan.

"Battle on the Ukrainian front: Ukrainian soldier kissed unborn child goodbye," reads the Chinese-language caption alongside the image posted on Twitter on March 2, 2022.

The image -- shared more than 400 times -- shows a man dressed in military fatigues kissing a woman's pregnant belly.

Screenshot taken on March 7, 2022 of the false Twitter post

Following Russia's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, many fathers in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv joined the army or territorial defence forces, leaving thousands of women to raise young children alone, AFP reported.

An identical image was also shared with a similar claim here and here on Twitter; here and here on Gettr; here and here on Facebook; and here on Weibo.

Comments on the posts suggested some social media users were misled by them.

"Pray for this father! Hope he comes home safe," one wrote.

"God bless Ukraine," another commented.

However, a reverse search on Google found the image predates Russia's invasion of Ukraine by almost ten years.

Slovakian soldier

The image was originally published here on the website of the Ministry of Defence of Slovakia on March 23, 2012.

"Poprad welcomes heroes from Afghanistan," the article reads.

"After successfully completing the tasks in the ISAF operation, 167 soldiers returning from Afghanistan safely landed at Poprad Airport on 21 and 22 March 2012."

Poprad is a city in Slovakia located some 300 kilometres (200 miles) east of the capital Bratislava.

"ISAF" -- an acronym for the International Security Assistance Force -- was a multi-country military mission to Afghanistan staged from 2001 to 2014.

Members of the Slovakian military joined the mission as part of their country's membership of NATO, according to this NATO report.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image shared in the false posts (left) and the photo published by Slovakia's defence ministry (right):

The 2012 article also features other photos of the same man and woman, as seen below:

A further reverse search on TinEye here found the image has been published in multiple online posts since at least 2013.

There has been a proliferation of online misinformation following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. AFP Fact Check has debunked some of the biggest claims here.

Ukraine conflict