As Russia launched a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine three days ago, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy refused to leave the capital and vowed to stay back and defend his country. Zelenskyy took to the streets and shared a video message saying, "We all are here defending our country and our independence and we will stay that way." After which, he was hailed a hero for 'fighting like a leader.'
Images of Zelenskyy donning a military vest were widely shared on social media with the claims that he joined the Ukraine defense troops in the frontline to defend his country. The images were shared with more or less the same narrative with claims they were from the ongoing conflict, with Zelenskyy being hailed as a hero for taking the historic step.
While it is true that Zelenskyy, indeed, hasn't left the capital Kyiv at the behest of the government of the United States saying that he needs 'ammunition, not a ride,' the claims alongside his viral images wearing military vest are not true.
Turns out, the viral images with the claim that Zelenskyy joined the Ukraine defense troops are false and the images are actually not recent, but months old. According to the fact-checking site, The Logical Indian, the viral pictures of Ukrainian president Zelenskyy donning a military vest were captured months back in 2021.
The pictures showed Zelenskyy's meeting with service members in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine in 2021. A reverse image search of one of the images showed it was first published in an article by Reuters on December 10, 2021. The story was titled 'Biden assures Zelenskiy that NATO membership in Ukraine's hands, Kyiv says.'
Another viral image was found to be first published in yet another article by Reuters on December 9, 2021. 'Did NATO make a mistake in Ukraine?' was the title of the article. The photo itself was captioned as 'Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy meets with the country's service members at the combat positions near the line of separation from Russian-backed rebels on the Day of the Armed Forces in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Monday. (Handout/Reuters).'
Another similar picture was found to be published in an article by Reuters on April 21, 2021. The photo was captioned as 'Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visits positions of armed forces near the frontline with Russian-backed separatists in Donbass region, Ukraine April 9, 2021. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS.'
The fourth viral picture of President Zelenskyy donning the military vest was found to be first published in an article by Kyiv Post captioned as 'This handout picture taken and released by the Ukrainian presidential press service on February 11, 2021, shows President Volodymyr Zelensky visiting the frontline with Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk region, Ukraine,' and credited to AFP.