Debunk: Did Putin kiss Xi Jinping’s hand and send a doppelganger to Mariupol?
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been at the center of fake news and bizarre conspiracy theories circulating on social media this week.
The Russian leader received his Chinese counterpart Xi JinPing in Moscow on Monday. But one photo in particular of the two men has sparked various reactions and interpretations on social media.
Seen by millions of people on Twitter, it was also shared by journalists, including a Kyiv Post correspondent.
It claims to show Vladimir Putin kneeling on one knee and kissing the Chinese leader’s hand. The caption says it’s about “Putin trying to persuade Xi”.
But this image is fake – it was actually generated by artificial intelligence or AI. How do we know? Here are some clues as to whether an image is real or not.
First, The Cube did a reverse image search and couldn’t find this photo anywhere except on social media. No other mainstream media published it.
Several social media users have noticed that the decor of the room where the two leaders met is different from the social media post.
We know they met in a room that looked similar to the Twitter thread above, while the widely shared image on Twitter shows a completely different carpet and furniture.
But that’s not enough to prove an image wrong, so let’s dig deeper. There are other details that give us clues that it’s not real.
For example, Putin’s hand is blurry and doesn’t look very realistic, which is usually a good indication that an image was generated by AI.
Indeed, even though artificial intelligence is highly developed, it still struggles to recreate details such as human hands.
Finally, Vladimir Putin’s head is abnormally large compared to his body, another good indication that this photo was never taken.
A journalist even “passed the image through an AI image detector created by Hugging Face.” According to their image detector, the photo is indeed artificial.
Did Putin even go to Mariupol or was he his doppelganger?
Earlier this week, another bizarre rumor spread by Ukrainian officials claimed that Vladimir Putin did not travel to the occupied city of Mariupol and sent a look-alike because of the different chin sizes in these photos.
But the Italian fact-checking site, OpenFactChecking, has debunked this theory. They proved that the first image on the left is from 2020, not 2023.
The middle and last photo were filmed on the same day recently in Mariupol by pro-Kremlin media – not in Sevastopol as the second photo claims.
The difference in the size of the chin is due to the fact that at the second blow, Poutine winces which explains the double chin.
But could Vladimir Putin have a lookalike? Conspiracy theories have been circulating since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but have never been proven.