FACT CHECK: Does This Image Show Ukrainian Soldiers Mistakenly Burning A Dutch Flag?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows Ukrainian soldiers burning a Dutch flag they mistook for a Russian flag.

Verdict: Misleading

The image is from a 2016 video that allegedly shows soldiers from the Ukrainian Azov Regiment threatening Dutch citizens over a referendum. The Azov Regiment denied the video was created by them.

Fact Check: 

The Facebook image features a screen grab of a May 22 tweet that purportedly shows Ukrainian soldiers in black ski masks burning a Dutch flag after they mistook it for a Russian flag. “Ukraine idiots have decided to burn a Russian flag and instead burned a flag of the Netherlands,” the post’s caption reads.

While the image does show Ukrainian soldiers burning a Dutch flag, it predates the current Russian invasion and was not done by accident. A reverse image search found the image originated from a 2016 YouTube video titled, “Appeal of AZOV fighters to the Netherlands regarding the referendum on the Ukraine-EU Association.” (RELATED: Does This Video Show A Ukrainian Person Smoking A Cigarette In Body Bag?)

The video’s title appears to allude to a 2016 referendum in which voters in the Netherlands rejected a European Union partnership deal to remove trade barriers with Ukraine, according to BBC News. The video allegedly shows Azov fighters threatening Dutch citizens over the referendum and ends in the armed men burning the Dutch flag. The Azov Regiment is a unit in Ukraine’s National Guard with ties to the far-right, Reuters reported.

A spokesperson for the regiment denied the men in the video were from Azov. “At first glance it is immediately clear that these could not be Azov fighters, they have no insignia, the uniforms and boots are not what our fighters wear,” Andriy Diachenko, the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment at the time, said in a video featured on Ukrainian fact-checking website Stop Fake in 2016.

In any case, the video dates from at least 2016, more than five years before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It also appears to show people knowingly burning the Dutch flag.

This is not the first time the Azov Regiment has been the subject of misinformation. Check Your Fact recently debunked a viral post that claimed a member of the group, Artem Bonov, was the deputy commander of the Kyiv police.

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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