FACT CHECK: Viral Image Claims To Show Ukraine’s First Female Fighter Pilot Who Died In Battle

Hannah Hudnall | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows Ukraine’s first female fighter pilot, Natasha Perakov, who the post claims died in battle at the age of 28 during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Verdict: False

This picture shows Olesya Vorobey, winner of a Ukrainian beauty contest. There is no evidence Nadiya Savchenko, who is considered to be the first female combat pilot in Ukraine, died in battle.

Fact Check:

The Facebook photo purportedly shows a photo of a female Ukrainian dressed in a camouflaged uniform smiling at the camera. “Natasha Perakov, Ukraine’s first female fighter pilot, died at the age of 28 during a battle with Russia,” the caption claims, marking the news as “SAD!”

However, the photo does not show a female fighter pilot. A reverse image search revealed the woman in the photo is named Olesya Vorobey. She won a beauty contest held between servicewomen and law enforcement officers as part of a holiday program in Starobilsk, Ukraine in 2016, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. The photo of her shared on Facebook is included in this 2016 article.

The woman considered to be the first female fighter pilot in Ukraine is Nadiya Savchenko, not Natasha Perakov, the Los Angeles Times reports. The former pilot, who was captured by pro-Russian forces in 2014 and imprisoned in Russia for two years, has been considered a symbol of anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine, the outlet reported. As of October 2021, Savchenko was facing a Ukrainian prison sentence for forging a COVID-19 vaccination certificate, according to Perth Now. (RELATED: Did CNN Lie About The First American Being Killed In The War Between Ukraine And Russia?)

There are no credible reports suggesting that Savchenko perished in any conflict with the Russians. In addition, Savchenko recently uploaded a video to her Facebook account with the caption “Victory for Ukraine. We showed it to ourselves, we will show it to the occupiers,” in Ukrainian.

Russian forces have made gains in the southern half of Ukraine as up to 1 million Ukrainians attempt to flee the war, which is now in its second week, The New York Times reported. Yet Russian forces have still not established air dominance in the country despite having a superior air force, according to Reuters.

This is not the first time an image has been misattributed to a victim of the Russian-Ukraine war. Check Your Fact recently debunked a photo that claimed to show a child that had been badly injured during the Russian invasion.

Hannah Hudnall

Fact Check Reporter

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