CLAIM: A photo of a girl on a bus with a gun shows “life in Ukraine now”.
FACTS: The photo shows a Russian social media influencer holding a fake gun after a photoshoot in March 2020, not a recent image of life in Ukraine amid warnings of an impending Russian invasion. The image was taken long before tensions began to escalate between the two countries in recent weeks.
A Twitter user shared the photo – which shows a girl scrolling through a smartphone on public transport while holding a fake gun – last weekend, with a fake caption suggesting she was just caught in Ukraine .
The image was actually taken two years ago in Russia, according to Ekaterina Gladkikh, who lists her location on Instagram as Novosibirsk, a city in Siberia. Gladkikh told The Associated Press through direct messages on Instagram that she was returning from a photo shoot when the image was taken.
“With this fake weapon, I managed to sit in a cafe and, as you can see, and take a ride in transport. None of the passers-by or the guards asked me any questions,” she said.
“I live in Russia, not in Ukraine,” she added.
In other photos posted on Instagram, she can be seen wearing the same beige hat as in the widely shared photo. She also posted a video highlighting the story in March 2020 where she wore the same distinctive nail polish as pictured – one hand was painted with red nail polish, while the other was painted with polish blue.
Reverse image search results show the photo has also appeared over time on Facebook and Twitter, with captions from 2020 and 2021 claiming it showed “a normal day in Russia”.
A Facebook post from March 2020, the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, captioned the photo: “Slavic girl needs social distancing on the bus.” An April 2020 entry on a blog post titled “Evolution of a Meme: Girl in Belarus on a Bus with AK”, explained how the image had been reused multiple times by online meme pages. The photo has started recirculating in recent days as tensions rise between Russia and Ukraine.
– Associated Press writers Arijeta Lajka in New York and Sophia Tulp contributed to this report.