Russia's Putin held portrait of father, not Thai king

After Russian President Vladimir Putin secured a record-breaking fifth term in power, a manipulated photo spread online that appeared to show him holding a portrait of Thailand's late King Bhumibol. In the original photo, Putin in fact displayed a portrait of his father as he took part in Victory Day celebrations in Moscow in 2015.

The edited image was shared in a TikTok post on May 9, 2024, days after Putin embarked on a fifth term with more power than ever.

The 71-year-old Kremlin chief, who has ruled Russia since the turn of the century, secured a fresh six-year mandate in March after winning presidential elections devoid of all opposition.

The picture appears to show him holding a portrait of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

It is shown next to a photo of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is Bhumibol's son, and a different picture of Putin.

Russia and Thailand have historically enjoyed close ties and the Thai royal palace congratulated Putin on his new term (archived link).

Thai text in white reads: "Russian leader declares he will not go to war with Thailand out of respect for King Bhumibol."

Screenshot of the false TikTok post, taken May 29, 2024

The image previously circulated on Facebook in 2022, when various media organisations including BBC Thai, Thailand's Voice TV and Hong Kong's Annie Lab pointed out it was fake.

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on May 29, 2024

However, some social media users appeared to believe the photo was genuine.

"I love that Putin doesn't forget the merit of the king of Thailand," one TikTok user commented.

"Long live the king and thank you President Putin of Russia," another wrote.

Manipulated photo

Reverse image searches found the original photo shows Putin holding a portrait of his father.

The photo was taken by Reuters photographer Maxim Shemetov, according to Alamy stock photo agency which published the image.

Screenshot of the original photo published on Alamy''s photo archives, captured on May 30, 2024

The photo caption reads: "Russian President Vladimir Putin holds the portrait of his father as he takes part in the Immortal Regiment march on the Red Square during the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2015."

The Immortal Regiment march is a procession in which Russians across the country parade through cities each May 9 holding portraits of relatives killed in World War II.

Below is a screenshot comparison between the manipulated photo in the false posts (left) and the Reuters photo archived on Alamy (right):

Screenshot comparison between the manipulated photo in the false posts (left) and the Reuters photo archived on Alamy (right)

AFP published a similar photo of Putin holding his father's portrait at the procession.

Furthermore, the other photo of Putin and the photo of King Vajiralongkorn shared in the TikTok post are old and unrelated.

The photo of the king shows him giving a New Year's speech on December 31, 2020, while the picture of Putin shows him delivering an address in Moscow on March 23, 2024 after a deadly gun attack at a concert hall (archived link).

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