Russian Official ‘Attempts to Steal’ Ukraine Flag

On May 5 2023, footage purportedly involving an incident between a Russian official and a Ukrainian member of parliament circulated on Twitter:

On May 4 2023, similar posts were shared to the subreddits r/PublicFreakout and r/therewasanattempt:

Fact Check

Claim: A viral video shows a Russian official attempting to steal a Ukrainian flag.

Description: A video circulating on social media from May 5, 2023, shows an incident at a summit in Ankara where a Russian official, identified as delegate’s secretary Valery Stavitskiy, tries to take away a Ukrainian flag from a Ukrainian Member of Parliament, Oleksandr Marikovskyi. Marikovskyi is seen retrieving the flag, and he later posted about the incident on Facebook.


Rating Explanation: The video was confirmed and reported by multiple news outlets, identifying the individuals involved and confirming the actions that took place.

The variations on the video ranged from 37 seconds to 44 seconds long, and began with a man in a suit grabbing a Ukrainian flag and attempting to leave with it. Passersby approach the man to re-capture the flag, then he surrenders the flag after a brief altercation.

On r/PublicFreakout, the top two comments on the video read:

“This is a pretty good microcosm of Russias invasion of Ukraine too. A pompous attitude, thinking they can take what they want and utter shock and confusion when they are retaliated against[.]”

“That’s the closest Russia has come to conquering Ukraine.”

On r/therewasanattempt, the most upvoted comment featured additional details from the post’s submitter:

“In Ankara, Turkey, during the events of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Community, a representative of Russia tore the flag of Ukraine from the hands of a Member of Ukrainian Parliament who was displaying it next to another Russian representative. The Ukrainian MP then punched the Russian rep who took the flag.”

News searches for details matching the video returned news about two distinct stories. Searches for “Russia,” “Ukraine,” and “flag” returned articles about this “flag” incident — and others revolving around Russia’s unsupported claim that Ukraine attacked the Kremlin on May 1 2023, which was widely described in the news as a “false flag.”

A May 4 2023 NBC News article among the results served as a good example of the concurrent “flag”-related news stories (“A daring Ukrainian attack or a Russian false flag? Fiery questions swirl over the Kremlin”), and it read in part:

Former intelligence officers, diplomats, military officials and analysts expressed strong skepticism about Russia’s narrative, but said it was too early to draw conclusions about the incident — not least because Russia provided no evidence to support its claims.

The incident has left most observers with three possible scenarios that William Taylor, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, laid out in an interview: Russia staged the incident to justify further aggression and mobilization against Ukraine, partisans orchestrated the attack from within Moscow, or Ukraine managed to fly a long-range drone into the heart of the enemy capital.

“This latter scenario seems to be very unlikely,” he told NBC News.

Was it a daring Ukrainian attack or a Russian false flag operation? Which country might have the most to gain?

On May 5 2023, the CBS News correspondent who tweeted the video wrote a story about the incident:

A bawdy fistfight and slap-fest erupted between delegates from Ukraine and Russia in Ankara, Turkey, on Thursday [May 4 2023] in the corridors of talks on Black Sea cooperation. Video of the scuffle was posted on the Facebook page of the Ukrainian delegate, Oleksandr Marikovski, involved in the melee.

“Paws off our flag, paws off Ukraine…,” Marikovski says in his post after the confrontation.

The incident took place in the lobby when the Russian delegate’s secretary, Valery Stavitskiy, snatched away a Ukraine flag that was being held up for a photo op, and Marikovski grabbed it back, punching and slapping the Russian in the process.

Yahoo News also covered the incident (“Ukrainian Official Punches Russian Diplomat Who Grabbed Flag At Turkish Summit”):

Ukrainian official Oleksandr Marikovskyi thrashed into a Russian representative after the unidentified man ripped a Ukrainian flag from Marikovskyi’s hands during the Summit of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC).


The scuffle was quickly broken up by a swarm of security guards and other diplomats, but Marikovskyi continued the battle online after posting the video on Facebook with the message, “Paws off our flag, paws off Ukraine, Russian filth!” in his native tongue, according to the Daily Beast.

On May 5 2023, a viral tweet purportedly showed a Russian diplomat’s attempt to steal a Ukrainian flag. The video was real; it was captured at a summit in Ankara on May 4 2023. News organizations eventually identified the flag grabber as the Russian delegate’s secretary, Valery Stavitskiy. Ukrainian Member of Parliament Oleksandr Marikovskyi was seen retrieving the flag, and he later posted to Facebook about the incident.