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‘The Japanese Ambassador to Ukraine Stayed in Kiev’

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"The Japanese ambassador to Ukraine stayed in Kiev, he was delivered from Tokyo his great-grandfather's samurai sword and traditional armor. Dressed in them, he declared that the samurai must protect the country in which he is! Glory to Japan! Glory to Ukraine!"#Ukraine"

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On February 24 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked an avalanche of social media rumors, among them a hugely popular claim that Japan’s ambassador to Ukraine chose to stay in Kiev and have his “samurai sword” shipped from Tokyo to the conflict.

A popular Imgur post depicted a February 24 2022 tweet from the account @visegrad24:

Alongside a photograph of a man in a mask, text in the tweet asserted:

The Japanese ambassador to Ukraine stayed in Kiev.

‘The Japanese Ambassador to Ukrai...
‘The Japanese Ambassador to Ukraine Stayed in Kiev’

His great-grandfather’s samurai sword and traditional armor was delivered to him from Tokyo, Japan.

In a FB post, he declared that the samurai must protect the country in which he is!

“Glory to Japan! Glory to Ukraine!”

That tweet mentioned a Facebook post in which the Japanese ambassador to Ukraine “declared that the samurai must protect the country” he was in. Another popular and nearly identical tweet (archived) posted less than an hour later included a screenshot from a Facebook post:

The screenshot showed a post by Kirill Zavadskiy. On Facebook, the post was automatically translated, but the screenshot only showed the Russian language post:

Знаємо, за що боремося, а чи знає Росія, – посол України в Японії одягнувся самураєм. Слава Україні!!!

It stood to reason that readers inferred that the untranslated text matched the claims of both tweets. However, Facebook offered the following translation for it:

We know what we are fighting for, and does Russia know, – the ambassador of Ukraine in Japan dressed in a samurai. Glory to Ukraine!!!

Google Trends data in the seven-day period ending February 24 2022 indicated that searches for “Ukraine ambassador to Japan” were popular. In “related searches,” “Japanese ambassador to Ukraine” began spiking exactly when the first tweet appeared; “Ukraine ambassador to Japan” searches went back further.

TinEye reverse image search indicated that the image was not originally shared on February 24 2022, and it was first crawled on February 16 2022. The earliest crawled result was a February 16 2022 post to Reddit’s r/Europe titled “Ukrainian Ambassador to Japan Sergiy Korsunsky as a Samurai”:

Ukrainian Ambassador to Japan Sergiy Korsunsky as a Samurai from europe

An Imgur post from February 17 2022 also identified the man as the Ukrainian ambassador to Japan:

The Ukraine Ambassador to Japan dressed in a full Japanese samurai suit and said

Viral tweets from February 24 2022 claimed that the “Japanese ambassador to Ukraine stayed in Kiev,” and his “great-grandfather’s samurai sword and traditional armor was delivered to him from Tokyo, Japan.” But previously, the image was described on Reddit as “Ukrainian Ambassador to Japan Sergiy Korsunsky as a Samurai,” two completely different explanations with disparate connotations — each explanation contradicting the other.

A February 18 2022 SoraNews24.com item about the photograph (“Ukrainian Ambassador to Japan dresses as samurai in show of strength against Russia”) identified the man in the photograph and provided a source. On February 14 2022, Ukraine Ambassador to Japan Sergiy Korsunsky shared the image in a tweet:

Sergiy Korsunsky was indeed the Ukraine Ambassador to Japan; his official page stated that he is also a published author:

Ambassador Korsunsky has extensive professional experience with strategic planning and development, including energy, trade and investment policy, energy security, regional security, science and technology. He is a well-known expert on the geopolitic issues.

Author of more than 320 academic papers and other publications including 7 books, among them “Nonlinear waves in dispersive and dissipative systems with coupled fields” (Addison, Wesley. Longman, 1997), “Technology Transfer in the United States” (Kyiv, 2005), “Energy Diplomacy” (Kyiv, 2008), “Foreign Policy in Times of Transformations” (Kharkiv, 2020).

He holds a diplomatic rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. He also holds a Doctor of Science Degree in Applied Mathematics since 1991. He is honored with several awards by the President and Government of Ukraine.

On February 24 2022, a widely shared tweet claimed the “Japanese ambassador to Ukraine stayed in Kiev,” and his “great-grandfather’s samurai sword and traditional armor was delivered to him from Tokyo, Japan.” In actuality, the photograph showed Ukraine’s ambassador to Japan, Sergiy Korsunsky, who shared the image himself on February 14 2022. Originally, the image was accurately described on Reddit and Imgur, but the description reversed and new details were added on or around February 24 2022 — a common occurrence in the floods of information, misinformation, and disinformation that pervade major breaking news events.

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