Disinformation targets Ukraine community volunteer awards

Social media posts sharing a photo of women at a ceremony claim they were recognized for surrendering their draft-evading spouses to the Ukrainian armed forces. This is false; they were awarded for their efforts to commemorate fallen soldiers in the country's ongoing war with Russia.

"The military recruitment commissar awarded wives who surrendered their husbands to the military!" says an April 1, 2024 X post from Lord Bebo, an account AFP has previously fact-checked for sharing misinformation.

The post includes a photo of seven women holding certificates and flowers. 

Screenshot of an X post taken April 8, 2024

Pravda, a Russian disinformation network targeting European countries, spread the false claim in Romanian, Ukrainian, and Polish. Posts in Chinese, Serbian and German have also circulated online.

Ukraine is seeking additional manpower to stave off Russian attacks more than two years after the February 2022 invasion. In the first week of April 2024,  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law lowering the draft age from 27 to 25.

However, the image shared online does not show women who turned their husbands into the military for refusing to serve -- the ceremony honored volunteers and family members of fallen soldiers.

A reverse image search found the same photo in a Facebook post from a page for Lozova, a city in eastern Ukraine (archived here). The March 25 post contains several pictures of the ceremony, including the one spreading online.

The event acknowledged a local "working group for honoring soldiers who died for the Independence of Ukraine" and the families of the deceased, according to the Ukrainian-language post.

It links to an article on a Lozova government website (archived here) titled: "In the Lozova community, those involved in the commemoration of the fallen defenders were honored."

The article lists the recipients, primarily city council workers and local teachers. Their names also appear on the certificates in some original event photos.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken April 8, 2024, with elements highlighted by AFP
Screenshot of a Lozova government website taken April 8, 2024, with elements highlighted by AFP

For example, Maryna Volodymyrivna Mikhailishyna (highlighted in green above) is the benefits head for Lozova's Department of Labor and Social Protection of the Population. According to the article, she was honored for "large-scale work carried out on the development of the Book of Memory, the Walk of Fame."

Tetyana Vasylivna Savina (highlighted in blue) teaches Ukrainian language and literature at Lyceum No 1 in Lozova. The article says she was awarded for "preparing materials for the Book of Memory."

A local media outlet published footage of the ceremony March 25 on YouTube (archived here).

The Ukrainian government has refuted claims that the photo shared online shows women who turned in their husbands for draft evasion (archived here). 

AFP has debunked other misinformation about the Russian invasion of Ukraine here.

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