Pro-Russian rebels seize Ukrainian armoured vehicles on February 7, 2015 in Uglegorsk, Ukraine. (Photo by Pierre Crom / Getty Images)
Early Thursday morning, social media reports emerged of an American supposedly captured or killed in eastern Ukraine by Russian forces. One compelling video showed an American passport open to the identification page. “Here is a U.S. special services representative working on the territory of Donbas,” a self-described Chechen fighter in Donbas said while holding up the passport. “They help destroy the civilian population.”
However, on background, the State Department categorically denied that the American was captured in Ukraine.“Reports that this U.S. citizen was captured in Ukraine are not true,” said a spokesperson. “Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment at this time.”(VICE News will not identify the man pictured in the passport for privacy and security reasons.) This isn’t the first time disinformation has emerged online claiming Western special forces were fighting in the Donbas. In 2018, VICE News uncovered false reports from Russian media that 11 Canadian special forces soldiers were killed while fighting in the Donbas region.Currently, Russian forces have undergone a massive redeployment from the north of Ukraine and the Kyiv region, to the country’s east where fighting is expected to intensify in the Donbas in the coming days. It is also the site of an eight-year war between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists.