NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out.


No, France did not deploy troops to fight with Ukraine against Russia

CLAIM: France sent troops to fight in the Russia-Ukraine war.

THE FACTS: The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement on X that France has not deployed troops to Ukraine, calling the claim “disinformation.” Reports of the deployment cited a May 3 blog post by Stephen Bryen, a deputy undersecretary for the Department of Defense during the Reagan administration.

“France has sent its first troops officially to Ukraine,” the blog post reads. “They have been deployed in support of the Ukrainian 54th Independent Mechanized Brigade in Slavyansk. The French soldiers are drawn from France’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, which is one of the main elements of France’s Foreign Legion (Légion étrangère).”

It adds that 100 French troops out of an expected 1,500 have arrived so far.

Many social media posts included a screenshot of the blog post as it appeared republished on another website. One such X post had received more than 3,000 likes and shares as of Friday.

But the French Foreign Ministry explicitly denied a deployment of French troops to fight in the Russia-Ukraine war.

“FAKE NEWS ALERT,” it wrote on X. “Disinformation campaigns on France’s support to Ukraine are as active as ever. Let’s have a look. France has not sent troops to #Ukraine.”

Macron said in an interview published on May 3 that he hasn’t excluded the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine, echoing comments he has made in recent months. He did not announce any deployments of the French military.

The claim spreading online cited a post published May 4 on Bryen’s blog titled, “France Sends Troops to Ukraine.” The post does not attribute its reporting to any sources.

Bryen published another blog post on Monday, where he acknowledged that he “could be wrong” about France’s alleged deployment to Ukraine. He also provided sources for his original post and explained his reporting ethos.

The earliest source Bryen cited about France sending troops is an April 12 article from a Russian military news website, which notes that it “can neither confirm nor deny this information.” It relies on reports from a Russian Telegram channel and a Russian journalist, who reportedly said the information is unconfirmed.

An April 13 X post from Sputnik, a state-owned Russian news agency, refers to the Russian Telegram channel and quotes a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman previously warning that “France would prepare 1,500 troops in April to be sent to Ukraine.” The same text is used in a Facebook post published the same day by a page that describes itself as “a gaming platform used for comedy and opinions out of spontaneous dialogue.” Bryen cited both.

Lastly, Bryen listed an April 14 post from a website that regularly promotes conspiracy theories.

In response to a request for comment from The Associated Press, Bryen pointed to the second blog post and wrote “as for denials, the French always deny having anyone at all in Ukraine.” He had deleted the links to all of these sources, aside from the Sputnik post, by Friday.

France’s 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment, of the Foreign Legion, has been based in Kourou, French Guiana, since 1973. Its responsibilities include protecting the Guiana Space Center and fighting against illegal gold panning.


Hackers did not project the Soviet Victory banner on Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate this week

CLAIM: Images show the Soviet Victory banner projected by hackers onto the east side of Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Tuesday night, prior to annual festivities celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

THE FACTS: The images were fabricated. Berlin police and the company that manages the Brandenburg Gate confirmed to The Associated Press that the Soviet Victory banner did not appear this week on the monument, one of Germany’s most significant landmarks.

Social media users shared photos and videos that made it appear the banner was being projected onto the gate ahead of this week’s commemorative celebrations.

“Last night, hackers breached the projection on the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and put the Soviet Victory Banner,” reads one X post that had received approximately 21,000 likes and more than 5,300 shares as of Friday.

A TikTok video viewed more than 198,000 times was similarly captioned: “Last night, hackers hacked the projection on the Brandenburg Gate and reminded authorities of who once defeated them, German police have launched an investigation.”

Other posts claimed that the alleged hack was a response to Berlin banning Russian symbols during the celebrations.

But an investigation into the reports found no evidence of such activity involving the popular landmark, an 18th century city gate that symbolized Berlin’s division during the Cold War and became representative of a reunified Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“After evaluating all the findings available to the Berlin police, the videos and photos circulating on social media of the alleged projection at the Brandenburg Gate are an optical/graphical fake,” Susann Barahona, a spokesperson for Polizei Berlin, the city’s police force, told the AP in an email written in German.

Johanna Steinke, a spokesperson for BIM Berliner Immobilienmanagement, a real estate company that manages the Brandenburg Gate, wrote in an email, also in German, that the claim spreading online is a “false report.”

It is unclear how the fabricated images were created.

The Soviet Victory banner was raised by the Red Army atop the destroyed German Reichstag on April 30, 1945, during the Battle of Berlin, in which the city fell to the Soviets. German dictator Adolf Hitler committed suicide the same day in his underground bunker.

Flags with a Russian connection, among other symbols, were banned from Soviet memorials in Berlin and their immediate surroundings on May 8 and 9 amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, according to a press release from the Berlin police. World War II veterans, diplomats and other representatives taking part in commemorative events marking the end of the war at these locations were excluded from the regulations. Bans were also in place in 2023 and 2022, the year Russia invaded Ukraine.


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