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A burning of Ukrainian books by Russian soldiers?  Attention, intoxication

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On May 21, politicians and experts shared a photo of burned books, claiming that the Russian military had destroyed Ukrainian books in the areas it occupies. While Ukrainian authorities have reported cases of books being destroyed by Russian soldiers, the photo actually shows a book burning staged by pro-Russian protesters in Crimea in 2010.

Verification in a nutshell:

  • A photo of a book burning has been shared by pundits and politicians, such as the UK’s ambassador to Ukraine.
  • The scene actually shows books being burned by pro-Russian protesters in March 2010, Crimea.
  • The Ukrainian authorities have reported cases of destruction of books, but images are not available today.

Verification in detail:

On May 21, a photo showing books spread out on the ground and surrounded by flames was shared by several experts. Among them, Carl Bildt, ex-Prime Minister of Sweden and co-president of the think tank European Council on Foreign Affairs, in a publication which accumulates more than 9,000 “likes”. He claims that “In the occupied areas there are now reports and photos of Russian occupiers burning whatever books on Ukrainian history they can find”.

Screenshot of Carl Bildt’s May 21 tweet claiming that Ukrainian books were burned by Russian soldiers © Observers

On the same day, the British Ambassador to Ukraine has published the photo on his Twitter account, garnering over 14,000 likes.

Books destroyed by pro-Russians in Ukraine in 2010

Searching with the words “burnt history books” “Ukraine” and “Crimea” in Russian, one can find this report from the Ukrainian television channel TCH dated March 16, 2010.

At 0’23 of the report, we recognize the books that have been burned, including the book entitled “The new history of Ukraine”.

A burning of Ukrainian books by Russian soldiers?  Attention, intoxication
The books shown in the 2010 TCH report are the same as those in the photos shared on Twitter. © Observers

The report indicates that it is a demonstration organized on March 14 in Simferopol, Crimea, during which representatives of the Proryv organization and the Natalia Vitrenko Bloc, two pro-Russian political organizations, burned books on the modern history of Ukraine.

The caption adds that the book “The most recent history of Ukraine”, and works of Soviet authors were destroyed.

An article from the Russian media Rosbalt confirms that a book burning took place during this demonstration.

By conducting a reverse image search using the Yandex search engine, the same image can be found in a January 2014 article from the Ukrainian news site, which claims to have compiled photos “from the events of different years organized by the Russian communities”.

Other images of the same protest have been released, such as these two images below, in which we also see burnt books in the foreground.

A burning of Ukrainian books by Russian soldiers?  Attention, intoxication
Photo of the March 14, 2010 protest in Crimea, where pro-Russian protesters burned books of Ukrainian history. © Observers

A burning of Ukrainian books by Russian soldiers?  Attention, intoxication
On the white and red sign reads “Mother tongue Russian – the status of the state language. Block Natalia Vitrenko” © Observers

In March 2010, a new government was formed by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, which included pro-Russian Dmitry Tabachnyk as Minister of Education. On March 11, a demonstration in support of Dmitry Tabachnyk took place in Crimea. From March 17, counter-demonstrations had taken place to denounce his appointment, particularly in the west of the country, his detractors judging that he “humiliated the Ukrainian language and culture”.

What do we know about the destruction of books in Ukraine?

While these images do not show a book burning in the recent conflict in Ukraine, Ukrainian authorities have claimed that Russian soldiers destroyed books in the occupied areas of Lugansk, Donetsk, Chernihiv and Sumy. However, our editorial staff did not find any photos showing these destructions.

Several Ukrainian libraries have been the target of bombings in Ukraine.

France 24-Trans

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