Social media posts claim footage of people easily removing debris from a Ukrainian cathedral after a Russian air strike proves the attack was faked. This is false; AFP and other news outlets covered the destruction, and the original video appears to show a woman carrying pieces of lightweight insulation.
“Keep a close eye on the women carrying the ‘heavy concrete stones,'” says a July 25, 2023 post on Twitter, which is being rebranded as “X.”
The post includes a clip from a Sky News broadcast (archived here) in which anchors discuss a Ukrainian cathedral decimated by a Russian attack. Footage playing on a screen behind the journalists shows a woman carrying what appears to be an armful of rubble.
“This is all a movie,” says another X post sharing the broadcast.
In the following days, volunteers helped clear the rubble. But many on social media claim the attack never happened, as the shot in the Sky News broadcast shows a woman easily picking up debris.
But allegations of conspiracy are false — AFP reports and photographs confirm the church was decimated in an air strike, and the original footage shows the woman is carrying a foam-like material likely used for the building’s insulation.
The superior quality of the video (archived here) shows the woman holding a material resembling polystyrene, which is commonly used in construction as insulation. Another fact-checkers reached similar conclusions based on this and other video of the clean-up effort.
The July attack was the second time the Transfiguration Cathedral was marred in a Russian military strike. The church was initially destroyed in 1936 during the reign of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and rebuilt once Ukraine gained independence in 1991.
Russian authorities have repeatedly misused low-quality footage to claim some of the worst atrocities in Ukraine were staged. In April 2022, AFP debunked clips used to imply that actors played massacred civilians in Bucha.
More of AFP’s reporting on misinformation surrounding the Ukraine-Russia conflict is available here.