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• The photos do show Ukrainians in prayer, but the images are actually years old. One picture was first shared online in 2015, the other in 2019.
As Russia prepared to invade Ukraine earlier this week and Americans tried to find ways to show support for Ukrainians on social media, two photos of people kneeling in prayer in a square went viral on Facebook.
"Ukrainian Christians pray outdoors, in the snow, for their country," read a Feb. 20 caption with an image showing several people gathered and kneeling in pairs. It said that the prayer was happening "in this phase of war danger."
"Ukrainian Christians gather to pray outside," read the caption on a separate post from Feb. 20. In this one, people could be seen kneeling in a paved area. The caption said that the Ukrainians pictured had declared "today" a day of prayer and fasting for their country.
Facebook posts containing the images had been shared tens of thousands of times, often on religious pages with names like "We Believe In God," "Defenders of the Gospel," and "Catholic Connect."
They were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Although these images do show Ukrainians praying for peace in the face of Russian threats, they were not taken "in this phase of war danger."
The first picture, showing the square covered by snow, was first published online in 2019, according to the International Mission Board, an evangelical missionary group, and as can be seen here.
The second photo was published online in 2015, according to Marc Ira Hooks, the photographer who took the picture, and as can be seen here.
According to Hooks, the Orthodox and evangelical Ukrainians depicted in the images decided to start praying for peace in 2014, as their country entered the period of political turmoil and violence that has continued until now.
They were praying in Kharkiv, a city in the east of the country that is currently being targeted by Russia.
Images shared on several Facebook posts purport to show Ukrainians praying for peace during the current conflict with Russia.
The photos do show Ukrainians praying for peace in the face of Russian threats, but they are actually years old. One picture was first shared online in 2015, the other in 2019.
We rate the posts Half True.
International Mission Board, "Standing on our knees," Sept. 25, 2019
Baptist Press, "Prayer warriors stand on knees in Ukraine," March 2, 2015
Email exchange with the press office of the International Mission Board. Feb. 22, 2022
Email exchange with Marc Ira Hooks, a former photojournalist in Eastern Europe with the International Mission Board. Feb. 22, 2022
The Washington Post, "In a Ukrainian city on Russia’s doorstep, Putin’s plans stir deep worries and defiance," Feb. 22, 2022
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