Fact check: were three drunk Ukrainians arrested in Qatar? | Explanation news

A fake video attributed to Al Jazeera claims that “drunk” Ukrainian football fans were detained for “Nazi symbols” in Doha.

Kyiv, Ukraine – A fake video attributed to Al Jazeera claiming “drunken” Ukrainian football fans spreading “Nazi symbols” in Doha has been circulating online since Tuesday.

In less than a minute, the video “reports” that three Ukrainians were detained after painting a “Hitler mustache” on La’eeb, the 2022 World Cup mascot, and scribbling a Nazi salute next to it.

It also alleges that the Ukrainians reportedly destroyed ten more posters near Doha’s Al Bayt stadium, where the championship takes place, before being detained.

The video first appeared on Tuesday, November 22, and has been widely shared on social media, with some posts being retweeted thousands of times.

For a beginner, the video looks real.

The style is similar to Al Jazeera social media clips, but the name of the stadium is misspelled – El Beit, rather than Al Bayt, and some of the language is not in the style of Al’s journalism Jazeera. One sentence reads: “At the time of their arrest, the Ukrainians offered no resistance.” Such a phrase would not have escaped our copy editors.

Mnar Adley, editor of MintPressNews, a leftist website, was among those who tweeted the video.

At the time of writing, her post had been shared by more than 2,000 Twitter users.

“Ukrainians were arrested in Qatar after drawing swastikas on football posters,” she wrote alongside the video to her following of 23,300 users.

User @LogKa11, who has nearly 14,000 followers, wrote “Nazi Ukrainians arrested in Qatar after drawing swastikas on football posters” while sharing the video. The post was retweeted over 800 times on their feed, which shares pro-Russian content.

Let’s take a closer look to understand how and why the video was designed and distributed:

What does the video show and what doesn’t it show?

  • It opens with seconds of footage of a crowd of fans in Doha. The Al Jazeera watermark is seen at an angle, an attempt to prove authenticity.
  • The faces of the three “Ukrainians” are not shown once.
  • Instead, there are images of men cheering with Ukrainian flags that were not necessarily taken in Qatar or after the war started in February – because men aged 18 to 60 are not allowed to leave Ukraine.
  • The video does not mention names, ages or other personal information about the three Ukrainians.
  • This omission contradicts the way police reports or press releases are written. This is not the way Al Jazeera conducts its journalism.
  • The video only shows one “vandalized” poster featuring La’eeb – without adding any details about its exact location.
  • There is also no video sequence showing the “wrecked” poster from at least two angles.
  • There are no reactions from Ukrainian diplomats to be immediately informed of the detention of Ukrainian nationals – especially if the allegations involve Nazi propaganda.
  • When the viewer reads the line claiming that the Ukrainians are not resisting, the video footage shows only Qatari police officers and the blurry face of someone they appear to be talking to.

Are there really Nazis in Ukraine?

  • The video’s main message about the “Ukrainian Nazis” follows how pro-Russian disinformation circulates on the internet.
  • “Russia’s basic story for exports is the so-called ‘Nazi’ nature of Ukraine’s political regime,” Kyiv-based analyst Aleksey Kushch told Al Jazeera.
  • For years, the Kremlin and the media networks it finances and controls have been doubling down on what it calls the “threat of Ukrainian Nazism”.
  • While President Vladimir Putin has sought to monopolize Russia’s role in defeating Nazi Germany and its World War II allies and diminish Western nations’ role in victory, his administration has appropriated far-right and ultra-nationalist slogans.
  • They call the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “Nazi junta”, ignoring the fact that Zelenskyy comes from a Russian-speaking Jewish family and that his grandfather lost his family during the Nazi invasion of Ukraine in 1941-1945 .
  • The claims “serve to justify the war for both [a] domestic [Russian] public and foreign [audiences]”, said Kushch.
  • While there are several outspoken far-right, ultra-nationalist and white supremacist groups in Ukraine, who unite with torches and attack anyone who criticizes them, their current influence on political life in Ukraine is not widespread.
  • The Azov Battalion, a volunteer military unit deployed to defend the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, admitted in 2014 that it employed volunteers who openly professed neo-Nazi views.
  • One of Azov’s founders, Andriy Biletsky, served as a legislator in the Verkhovna Rada, the lower house of the Ukrainian parliament, from 2014 to 2019.
  • But he decided not to run for president in the 2019 election, in which Zelenskyy won with 73 percent of the vote.

Why is the video coming out now?

  • The video was released on Twitter at a time when the microblogging platform was receiving a lot of criticism.
  • Billionaire Elon Musk took over Twitter in late October, and the platform is undergoing rapid changes and staff cuts that have questioned its ability to moderate news content.
  • Twitter has added a paid subscription feature that shows every paying customer as a verified account holder, but critics say the move has led to a proliferation of fake accounts.

What are the risks of misinformation about the war in Ukraine?

  • With the World Cup being the most publicized global event this year, anything related to it could be widely disseminated to tens if not hundreds of millions of people.
  • As Western countries ban and filter “traditional” Russian-backed news organizations, such as the RT television network, Moscow is turning to new ways to deliver its pro-government stories.
  • While not directly linked to Russian propagandists, the video unashamedly promotes the Kremlin’s view of Ukraine.
  • “This intelligence operation is designed to ruin Ukraine’s global image and was definitely carried out by Russian intelligence,” Kushch said.

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