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Photo of ex-Ukraine defense minister on yacht predates Russia war

Photo of ex-Ukraine defense minister on yacht predates Russia war - Featured image

Author(s): AFP USA

Social media posts claim photos show Oleksiy Reznikov partying on a yacht in the South of France days after leaving his post as defense minister of Ukraine. This is false; the image was taken near Istanbul, Turkey, in February 2020, years prior to the war with Russia.

“#USTaxpayerMoneyAtWork. Sacked #Ukraine defence minister #Reznikov partying on a yacht moored off the #CoteDAzur, maybe spending some of those millions he’s stolen? Meanwhile Ukrainians he press ganged are sent to die every day. #NotOneMoreDimeForUkraine,” says a September 10 post published on Twitter — now rebranded as X.

The claim gained traction on X — here, here, here — on Facebook and as a joke on meme-generating website 9GAG.

A screenshot of an X post taken on September 11, 2023 sharing a photo of the former Ukraine defense minister on a boat

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on September 3, 2023 announced the departure of his defense minister, responding to a call for “new approaches” a year and a half into Russia’s invasion.

Reznikov, replaced by former businessman Rustem Umerov, spent much of his time in office galvanizing support from Kyiv’s allies.

In January, his deputy was forced to resign after the defense ministry was accused of signing food contracts at prices two to three times higher than current rates for basic foodstuffs. He admitted at the time the ministry’s own anti-corruption department had “failed” to do its job and needed to be “completely rebooted.”

But the photo shared on social media is taken out of context; the image was not taken after Reznikov’s removal, AFP found.

A reverse image search revealed that the image circulated online in 2020 — including in articles in Russian that attributed the photo to Reznikov’s own Facebook page –and taken before he became defense minister.

Through a search on Facebook, AFP found the original post by Reznikov. On February 14, 2020, he shared several photos celebrating on a boat to announce his engagement to his now-wife, Julia Zoria, whom he married in 2020.

Through a reverse image search of the monument seen in the background, AFP identified that the photo was taken in Istanbul, Turkey, in front of the Rumeli Fortress, on the Bosphorus Trait (archived here), circled in red in the picture.

A search on Google Maps shows the Fortress can be seen at that angle approximately here from the waterway.

A screenshot taken on September 11, 2023 of a photo Oleskiy Reznikov shared on Facebook on February 14, 2020
A screenshot taken on September 11, 2023 of an image of a tower at the Rumeli Fortress in Istanbul, Turkey

AFP was also able to identify the yacht seen, which is advertised as a private rental service (archived here).

Seemingly identical elements of the ship — circled below — are seen in Reznikov’s picture and one of a yacht advertised on a tourism website for a “private Bosphorus Cruise on a Luxurious Yacht.”

A screenshot take on September 11, 2023 of an image of a yacht shown in a photo gallery from tourism website ‘Get Your Guide’
A screenshot taken on September 11, 2023 of a photo or Reznikov and his then-fiancée on a boat, originally published on Facebook on February 14, 2020

Through a keyword search on Google, AFP found no evidence of Reznikov celebrating on a yacht following his recent resignation from the Ukrainian government.

AFP has previously debunked other misinformation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine here.

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Originally published here.