Modified photo of a tractor towing a Russian rocket

The claim: A photo shows a Ukrainian tractor towing a Russian rocket

After a video of a tractor with a Russian tank being towed by the Ukrainian military went viral, photos and videos of agricultural vehicles have been popping up all over the internet, highlighting Ukrainian resistance to the invasion.

A photo shared by several social media users appears to show Ukrainian farmer-fighters “taking it to the next level”, as one Reddit user put it.

In the photo, which has appeared in a number of popular posts, a rocket ship with a Russian flag sits horizontally on a seven-axle flatbed trailer, dwarfing the green and yellow tractor that appears to be pulling it through an otherwise sandy desert landscape rouge and dusty brush.

It was uploaded by a satirical Twitter account, but as it spread online it was interpreted by many to be real, as in the comments on a Facebook post shared on March 10 that received more than 450 reactions .

“Here is a photo sent by Duncan,” writes the Heartbeat of Ukraine page. “He says he took the picture with his own camera, LOL.”

Page administrator Serz Velychansky told USA TODAY that the post was meant to be humorous and that he did not consider himself a reliable source of information. However, many commentators did not consider it a satire.

“I am the granddaughter of a Ukrainian farmer,” wrote one user. “I live for these stories. It was my grandfather who fought back against the Bolsheviks and the Nazis once upon a time.”

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Other commentators praised the bravery of the farmers and expressed hope that Russian President Vladimir Putin would see the “embarrassing” image.

USA TODAY has reached out to several users who shared the image for comment.

The original image shows the Soyuz rocket before launch in 2018

The original image shows a Russian rocket being pulled by a train, not a tractor, to a launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 9, 2018, according to NASA. It was taken by NASA photographer Bill Ingalls.

The Soyuz was to send a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut to the International Space Station, where they would live and work for six months. However, the rocket failed right after launch, RadioFreeEurope reported. The crew made a safe emergency landing on Earth.

The edited version of the rocket photo was satirical. It was first posted on March 9 by the Twitter account @Sputnik_Not, as also reported by Reuters.

“BREAKING: Ukrainian farmer steals Soyuz rocket,” the page captioned the photo, which has been liked by more than 25,000 Twitter users.

Many of the account’s posts are satirical in nature, such as an image of a tractor accessorized with camouflage paint and a long gun captioned “John Deere launches new tractor for Ukrainian market”. another post reads, “Putin says his plan to restore the Soviet Union is progressing well because the ruble is worthless and you can’t get out of the country.”

However, it’s clear from comments on the tweet and several Facebook posts that many social media users were tricked into thinking the image was real. It is an example of “stolen satire”, where material originally presented as satire is republished in a way that makes it appear to be legitimate claims. As a result, some social media users are misled.

Our opinion: Modified

Based on our research, we note ALTERED a photo purporting to show a Ukrainian tractor towing a Russian rocket. The original photo shows a Soyuz rocket being pulled by a train, not a tractor, and was taken in 2018.

Our fact-checking sources:

  • NASA Johnson, October 9, 2018, The Soyuz rocket rolls out by train to the launch pad
  • RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, 11 October 2018, US and Russian space crew return safely to Earth after booster failure
  • Reuters, March 11, Fact Check – Social media users fooled by satirical image of tractor towing space rocket
  • @Sputnik_Not, March 9 Tweeter
  • @Sputnik_Not, March 17 Tweeter
  • @Sputnik_Not, March 9 Tweeter
  • Bing Image Match, accessed March 17
  • The Economic Times, March 1, Facebook post
  • VICE, March 16, The tractor has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance

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Our fact-checking work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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