Fact Check: Does Viral Photo Show 'Nazi' Wedding in Ukraine?

As intense fighting between invading Russian forces and the Armed Forces of Ukraine continues across eastern and southern front lines, the social media space presents yet another front of the war.

Both sides have been accused of using manipulated, edited or computer-generated media to advance their interests, with Russia appearing intent on pushing its false narrative of "denazifying" Ukraine out beyond Russian-language social media.

This type of post tends to be shared amid a flood of broader misinformation and unevidenced claims about the conflict, much of which fuels content that is often impossible to corroborate or verify immediately.

In the latest manifestation of this strategy, a photo of a wedding, with a supposed Ukrainian flag in the background and depicting multiple people raising their hands in what appears to be a Nazi salute, has gone viral on Twitter and Telegram.

Possible Peace Talks Ukraine
A photo pushing the Kremlin's propaganda narrative about "Ukraine's neonazis" appears, in fact, to have been digitally altered and traced to a Russian city. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) sits for a press conference on April 23, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) gives a speech at a meeting of advisory council of the Russian parliament in Saint Petersburg on April 27, 2022. Getty

The Claim

An image featuring a bride and groom, along with wedding guests, raising their arms in a Nazi salute with Ukraine's yellow-and-blue flag in the background, has been shared alongside claims accusing Ukraine of Nazi sympathies.

The photo was widely shared online, including by Russian, English, French and Spanish language accounts, some of which have been prominent posters of conspiracy theories and misinformation.

Garland Nixon, a left-leaning DC-based talk show host and media personality, was among those, posting the image (archived here) with the caption "A wedding in Ukraine with the nation's salute. Nothing to see here."

A two-year-old post on r/trashy subreddit also featured the image, captioning it "Just game 'point to the sun'".

The Facts

While the photo of the event is real, the image has been manipulated to include a Ukrainian flag in the background.

A reverse search of the image shows that it in fact predates Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The colours on the flag have been digitally altered, with the original picture (dating as far back as 2017, though it could be older) showing a black-and-yellow flag.

The original image was posted at least as far back as October 17, 2017 on the Russian meme aggregator website Yaplakal, but has since been shared on other sites and platforms, including as a debunk.

Though the bottom segment of the flag is not visible, social media users speculated that it is likely to be the Imperial flag of the Russian Empire.

The flag (and its colors) have been appropriated and widely used by certain parts of Russia's far-right and nationalist movements, including the Russian Imperial Movement and white-supremacist linked paramilitary group Rusich (the former was sanctioned by the U.S. as "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" in 2020).

As other social media users have pointed out, the photo appears to have been taken in the Russian town of Novokuznetsk, with the Lenin monument in the background of the photo appearing to match that located in the city's main square.

Newsweek Fact Check verified that the monument in the background matches that seen in the photo, as does the background headquarters of the local Kuznetsk area administration.

This is not the first time pro-Kremlin accounts have attempted to misrepresent photo and video content sourced in Russia and elsewhere as evidence to support the "Nazis in Ukraine" propaganda narrative.

A photo of a Belarusian prison inmate, covered in tattoos depicting alleged neo-Nazi symbols, was shared widely, misleadingly referring to him as a Ukrainian prisoner of war.

And as Newsweek Fact Check previously reported, a video suggesting that Ukrainians were selling Western-sourced weapons abroad appeared to be a deliberate fabrication, while another photo was misleadingly used to prop the narrative that the war is not real.

Newsweek has reached out to Garland Nixon for comment.

The Ruling

False

False.

The claim is false. The image showing a wedding was manipulated to change the colors of the flag, which originally appears to have been a black-yellow-white Russian imperialist flag. The original photo, which is at least five years old, was likely taken in front of a Lenin statue in the Russian town of Novokuznetsk.

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK

False: The claim is demonstrably false. Primary source evidence proves the claim to be false.
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