Kyiv rebuilt residential tower damaged by missile
A residential tower in Kyiv that was hit by a missile soon after Russia launched its war against Ukraine has become a subject of misinformation. Social media users claim pictures, showing the building seemingly intact, prove the war that began more than a year ago is not real. But AFP found authentic evidence of extensive damage to the building, and the restoration that followed.
"This war is FAKE!," says a February 24, 2023 tweet published by Stew Peters, a far-right talk show host who regularly promotes conspiracy theories and false claims on social media and in podcasts.
The tweet -- posted on the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion and which gathered tens of thousands of interaction -- shares two photos side by side: the image on the left, said to have been taken in February 2022 in Ukraine, shows a residential tower partially destroyed while the image on the right, said to have been taken a year later, seemingly shows the same building, undamaged.
Posts in French and German also shared the images.
The tweet is part of a wave of disinformation -- mostly pushed by pro-Russia accounts -- that has flooded social media platforms since the beginning of the war on February 24, 2022.
AFP was able to identify the building in the images.
The tower, located on Lobanovskyi Avenue and close to Kyiv airport, was hit two days after the war began. AFP covered the strike at that time -- including a series of photos showing damage left by the impact, as seen below.
Neither Russia nor Ukraine took responsibility for the attack.
The Ukrainian government said the missile was Russian, a claim that the Ministry of Defense in Moscow disputed. Neither party, however, denied that the attack in fact happened or that the building suffered damage.
Kateryna Ivachchenko-Stadnik, who used to live in the building, told AFP the missile hit between the 18th and the 22nd floor. At the time, she lived two floors below the impact zone.
"We were all inside the apartment when it happened. Honestly, I didn't hear the alarm. It was on February 26. The assault lasted less than a minute," she recalled.
While inhabitants were encouraged to take shelter at a nearby school the day before the attack, Ivachchenko-Stadnik and her family decided to stay home. "I underestimated the risks for civilians. I didn't think our neighborhood could be a target, with a school and a maternity clinic next door," she said.
Content published on social media by other residents in the building -- and gathered by AFP's German-language verification team -- showed further evidence of the damage caused by the missile inside the building.
As glass shattered, dust and smoke entered the building Ivachchenko-Stadnik recalled fearing for her family's safety. "I just wanted to see my family alive. I wasn't thinking of anything else," she said, remembering that she grabbed a bag and packed essentials before exiting the building with her family, only to later flee her country.
Nadia Prystupa, director of the Cambridge English Centre, was also in the building that day. She confirmed to AFP on February 28, 2023 that it was hit by an airstrike a year earlier.
Oksana Zinovyeva, a spokeswoman for Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, said in a statement: "The missile struck the building on Lobanovskyi Avenue on February 26, 2022."
Other media sources also reported on the event, here, here, here and here.
The difference between the two images can be explained by restorations made to the building since the impact.
Through a reverse image, AFP found that the Ukrainian government tweeted about the building's restoration on February 21, 2023.
"In February 2022, the Russian missile hit a residential building on Lobanovskyi Avenue in Kyiv, a heartbreaking photo of which horrified the whole world and showed Russia's true intentions. Almost one year later, the building is renovated," the tweet said.
AFP also interviewed Olena Chumakova, a current resident of the building, who had left Kyiv on the first day of the war. She said that, to her knowledge, only three families stayed in the building after the bombing. There was no electricity, water or gas, she explained.
She returned to her home a month later, but it was still in a precarious condition. "It was cold and frightening," she said. She and some neighbors then started to clean up the building.
She moved back to the 14th floor in May 2022 and in fall of that same year, municipality construction workers finished restoring the eight floors impacted by the missile.
Chumakova also told AFP that Klitschko came to see the repairs.
The mayor shared some photos and videos of his visits on Facebook in September and December of 2022.
His spokeswoman, Zinovyeva, confirmed the building renovations were completed in December of last year.
AFP went on site to photograph the restored building on February 28, 2023.
More than 10,000 buildings -- residential and public -- have been entirely or partially restored since the war started.
According to Zinovyeva, all damaged buildings of Kyiv will undergo repairs. Six restoration projects are currently ongoing in the capital of Ukraine.
AFP has debunked other misinformation about the war in Ukraine here.
March 8, 2023 This story was updated to fix a typo in the headline.