US President Joe Biden (R) walks next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) as he arrives for a visit in Kyiv on February 20, 2023. (DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)
A year after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, tens of thousands of civilians have been murdered, tens of millions of Ukrainians are displaced, and billions of dollars in damage have been inflicted on homes and buildings across the country—and the American far right is still pushing the narrative that the war in Ukraine is fake.Coinciding with the one year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, conspiracists, far-right influencers, and trolls have made a coordinated effort to push the conspiracy theory that the entire conflict in Ukraine has been staged.
The narrative that the war was fake first emerged in the early days of the invasion, and one of the key pieces of “evidence” used by those spreading the disinformation was a video they claimed showed “fake bodies” in body bags.The video, which shows the body bags moving in the background, was in fact taken at a climate change protest in Austria about a month before Russia invaded Ukraine. Over the weekend, it was once again shared as “evidence” that the mainstream media was lying about the war.The most popular post came from an anonymous right-wing Twitter account called Amuse, which shared the video with the comment: “Stop Moving - You’re Supposed to be Dead! Psyop?”The tweet currently has been viewed over 3.9 million times and been liked over 45,000 times.When it was pointed out that the video was not taken in Ukraine, the account holder responded: “Someone told me it is some sort of crazy four dimensional misinformation—video might be from Austria. Not sure who is pushing it - Ukraine or Russia. Without embedded journalists we’ve got this mess.” They later added: “No one seems to know who is responsible but it is clearly a Psyop.”The same video was shared widely across Facebook and Twitter in recent days.
At the same time, Catturd, a hugely influential MAGA shitposter favored by Elon Musk, posted a screen on Twitter that questioned the reality of the war in Ukraine because he apparently has not seen any footage from the war front.
“We get no footage, no detailed updates, no graphs explaining how the war is going, who has control of what land,” Catturd wrote. “All we get is Biden fake air raid sirens and one famous actor or politician a day happily prancing around Kiev with Zelenskyy with no helmets or body protection offering him 100s of billion of dollars.”Catturd’s tweet has been viewed over 10.4 million times, despite Twitter’s fact-checking community appending a note to the post saying: “Footage and analysis of the Russian war on Ukraine from multiple media sources including reporters embedded with Ukrainian troops is and has been available.”On Truth Social, disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn endorsed Catturd’s claims, writing: “What Catturd said, and I double dare anyone to say he is wrong.”
Kyle Becker, a far-right commentator who has in the past worked for Fox News and Tim Pool’s podcast, also shared the claim that there was no footage available of what’s likely the most-documented war in human history.“I am sick and tired of the lack of footage of the Ukraine war. I worked in cable news. I am initiated. If it bleeds, it leads. Where is the war footage? Where are the Pulitzer Prize winning photos? This smacks of a scam and the American people are fed up,” Becker tweeted.
Meanwhile Stew Peters, a far-right podcaster and COVID conspiracist, added to the conversation by posting a video from the Ukrainian government that shows how the country has been working to fix some of the damage inflicted by the war over the last year.According to Peters, the video is not a positive story about the resilience of the Ukrainian people, but proof the war is “100% fake” and that the damage was never inflicted in the first place.
Peters spent the weekend pushing the narrative that the media and governments around the world are lying about the war.“The world is a stage,” Peters tweeted on Sunday. “It’s ALL fake. When enough people realize what has been done to them, and they’re ready to admit it, there will be NOWHERE safe for these criminals to hide.”One other strand to the conspiracy about the war in Ukraine being fake is a renewed push to surface videos from the former life of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a comic actor and using it to claim he is merely playing the role of a head of state.One of the most prominent people sharing this claim in recent days was Donald Trump Jr. who shared a clip of Zelensky dancing in high heels and leather from a 2014 parody video with the comment:“Just so we understand, this is the leader of the left’s new religion, Ukraine. He replaced Lord Fauci who replaced goddess Greta as the leader of the leftist lunacy movement. Give him all of your money forever it doesn’t matter how much or for what… the Gods have spoken!”The tweet has racked up almost 9 million views in the space of just 24 hours.Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.