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Photo of Hawaiian park falsely shared as ‘Putin’s private villa’

Photo of Hawaiian park falsely shared as 'Putin's private villa' - Featured image

Author(s): SHIM Kyu-Seok / AFP South Korea

A photo of a building complex inside a massive volcanic crater has been repeatedly shared in social media posts that falsely claim it shows a private villa owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In fact, the picture shows the Diamond Head Crater in Hawaii, a state park owned and maintained by the US government. 

The photo was shared here on South Korean online forum DCInside on December 14, 2023.

“Putin’s private villa,” reads the Korean-language title of the post. 


Screenshot of the false post, captured December 15, 2023


The photo also circulated with a similar claim on Facebook here and here, as well as on here on Naver Band, a South Korean online forum.

It also appeared in an English-language post on the meme-generating website 9GAG, with a caption: “President Putins real Villa finally exposed.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has several official residences, including in Novo-Ogaryovo, west of Moscow, and in the Black Sea city of Sochi, as reported by AFP and the The New York Times (archived link). 

However, for years, activists and journalists have speculated on Putin’s  hidden properties and secret residences, as reported here and here (archived links here and here).

In 2021, Russian opposition leader and Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny released an investigative report featuring a palatial estate in the Black Sea resort town of Gelendzhik, which he claimed belonged to Putin (archived link). 

State-run Russian media dismissed the claim, and billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, a Putin ally, said that he owns the property and plans “to turn it into an apartment hotel”.  

AFP previously debunked a false claim about “Putin’s house in Sochi”. 

But the image shared in the false posts shows a park in the US state of Hawaii, not a property owned by Putin.

Diamond Head crater

A reverse image search on Google found the same photo was previously published in November 2023 on Instagram and on a blog post, suggesting it shows Diamond Head, a crater located on the coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu (archived links here and here).

Another keyword search on Google found other photos of the Diamond Head State Monument, published by the Hawaii government’s Division of State Parks (archived link).  

Some of the photos match the one shared in the false posts. 

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image in the false post (left) and an aerial photo published by Hawaii’s Division of State Parks (right), with matching features marked by AFP:

Screenshot comparison of the image in the false post (left) and an aerial photo published by Hawaii’s Division of State Parks (right)

According to the Division of State Parks website, the Diamond Head crater — one of Hawaii’s most recognisable landmarks — is believed to have formed about 300,000 years ago as a result of a massive volcanic eruption.

The area was purchased by the US government in 1904 and served as a coastal military fortification, according to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s website (archived link).

The Diamond Head State Monument is currently jointly managed by the state parks division and the state’s defence department, the Division of State Parks website says. The buildings seen inside the crater are “comfort and recreational facilities”, which include a visitor centre. 

Google Maps’ satellite view of the area also matches the photo shared in the false posts (archived link).

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Originally published here.