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This image of an explosion behind Putin’s ‘stability’ billboard is literally too good to be true

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After Russian President Vladimir Putin was reelected on March 17, a photo went viral showing an explosion behind one of his campaign posters featuring the slogan “stability”. However, it turns out that this image was created by a Ukrainian designer.

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3 min

If you only have a minute…

  • The photo of an explosion taking place right behind a billboard featuring a photo of Vladimir Putin and the slogan “stability” has gone viral on social media. The accounts sharing it say that it was taken during a bombing campaign led by the Ukrainian Army. 
  • In reality, this image was created by a Ukrainian designer. Our team spoke to the guy, who said that he made the image using artificial intelligence and Photoshop.

The fact-check, in detail

Accounts on X and Facebook widely shared an image of a billboard advertisement for Vladimir Putin’s reelection campaign (spoiler alert: he ended up winning his fifth mandate in the elections that took place earlier this month). The poster features the slogan “stability”, but behind it there is an explosion going on. Social media users made fun of the image, claiming that the explosion was caused by a Ukrainian attack on a Russian refinery.

Read moreRussian energy infrastructures targeted by Ukrainian drones

This is a screengrab of posts on X and Facebook, shared on March 17 and 18, 2024, respectively. They both claim, wrongly, that a Ukrainian strike caused the explosion behind Putin’s reelection poster.
This is a screengrab of posts on X and Facebook, shared on March 17 and 18, 2024, respectively. They both claim, wrongly, that a Ukrainian strike caused the explosion behind Putin’s reelection poster. © The Observers

However, when we ran this image through a reverse image search (click here to find out how), then we came across a post from March 13 by the X account “@khersondesigner” in which he claims to have created the image himself.

This is a screengrab showing the March 13 post on X by the person who created the image.
This is a screengrab showing the March 13 post on X by the person who created the image. © The Observers

On March 18, the creator of the image took to Telegram.

“Who would have believed that this photo would become widespread across the world? Foreign journalists have been writing to us asking if it is a ‘real photo or an edited image.’ Unfortunately, the image went viral without the author’s name and people think that it is a real photo.”

 

This is a screengrab of the message posted by the maker of the photo on Telegram on March 18, 2024.
This is a screengrab of the message posted by the maker of the photo on Telegram on March 18, 2024. © The Observers

 

We reached out to the man and he confirmed to us that he had, indeed, created the image. 

“I often draw images that reflect my vision of the news in Ukraine and Russia. The base of this image was generated by artificial intelligence – it doesn’t come from a real photo. Then, I made up the rest of the design myself, using Photoshop.”

The designer, who comes from Kherson, Ukraine, said that he has been creating images like this since war began in his country.

“I started making these images when Russian troops occupied my town, Kherson,” he said. “It raises morale and helps to raise money for the Ukrainian Army.”

Our reverse image searches didn’t pull up any matches for a billboard similar to the one you can see in the image. The billboards used during Putin’s 2024 campaign do feature the same logo, “Russia Putin 2024”, which appears in the bottom of the billboard. However, we spoke to a number of Russian journalists, who all said that they had never seen a poster like the one in this image. They said that most of Putin’s campaign posters feature images of the Russian countryside and not the president. 

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