‘Ukraine Looters Taped to Poles’

On March 7 2022, a screenshot of the following reply tweet purportedly depicting a Russian soldier caught looting in Ukraine appeared on Imgur and elsewhere:

In the March 6 2022 tweet, Twitter user @fashiongranny1 shared two images of a man taped to a pole, adding:

Fact Check

Claim: Image depicts Russian soldiers taped to poles after Ukrainians caught them looting homes.

Description: An image allegedly depicting a ‘Russian soldier’ who was caught looting by Ukrainian residents, who then taped him to a pole was reviewed. This image has been circulating across multiple platforms.

Rating: Decontextualized

Rating Explanation: Evidence suggests that the depicted individual was not a ‘Russian soldier’, but a local Ukrainian resident who was caught looting. This information comes from various sources, including local Ukrainian news source ua.korrespondent.net.

My favorite….this Russian soldier was marking buildings for rocket hits…and was doing a little looting on the side. The Ukrainian residents caught him looting, pulled his britches down, and….Saran wrapped him to a pole, and left him there for the police. ????????

Google Trends data indicated searches for “Ukraine looters” began registering on February 25 2022. Searches with “Breakout” levels of interest also included “Ukraine looters taped” and “looting in Ukraine.”

One of the two images appeared in a February 28 2022 New York Post item, “Bewildered Russian soldiers, paranoid Ukrainians: On the ground in a war zone.” That variation made the image at least a week old; its shaky caption read:

A reported “Russian collaborator” is duct-taped to a pole in Ukraine, according to local social media.

Some commenters on Imgur claimed the images were posted earlier with a slightly different explanation appended:

“yesterday it was a looter, today its a civilian dressed russian soldier”

“tomorrow it will be putin himself stuck to that pole”

“The person above was in a gallery upload yesterday, where they were included in a series of pics of ‘looters’ caught, nothing else.”

“This is misinformation and should be reported as such. Not saying @op did it on purpose, but it should be getting downvotes instead.”

Similarly, replies on the Twitter thread disputed the description:

“There’s nothing here identifying the person affixed to the pole as a Russian soldier. This is just someone unidentified being publicly tortured/humiliated. Yet so many are enjoying this person’s suffering based on a story. It’s unsettling.”

“Are you sure this wasn’t someone who got caught looting and not a Russian soldier?”

“Why make up stories? Going by the source, this was a Ukrainian citizen who was caught looting. Nothing to do with Russian soldiers.”

“That is a Ukrainian looter. They are doing this to looters. That’s from Kazarsky district, Mykolaiv. [Link.]”

In the fourth quoted tweet above, the user linked to an inaccessible (but archived) February 27 2022 article on ua.korrespondent.net/ukraine. Its title translated automatically to “Residents of Mykolayiv took their pants off the looter and fastened them to a pole,” and translated article content reported:

The man decided to take advantage of the lack of staff and lighting in a store in the Kazarsky district. In Nikolaev locals caught the marauder and tied him to a “pillar of shame”, having removed from him trousers. This was reported by Novosti-N on Sunday, February 27 [2022].

“The incident took place in the Kazarsky district. There, an enterprising citizen decided to take advantage of the lack of workers and lighting in the store and” buy “something there without money. The looter was unlucky – he was seen by locals. They called the police,” the statement said.

The patrol that arrived found a marauder without pants and with film wrapped around the pole. We will remind, on the territory of Ukraine in each settlement “sleeping groups” which, having rented apartments, waited for time “Ch” entered. Law enforcement officers are asked to report the suspects who have been renting apartments since December last year [2021].

At least four separate posts on four distinct subreddits (posted between February 28 and March 4 2022) were on the topic of looters in Ukraine taped to poles. None of the four posts included the images, but one of posts’ videos was deleted for inaccuracy:

Some of the images matched a March 3 2022 Imgur post about looters in Ukraine:

A March 1 2022 tweet by a Swedish user included one of the two images of a “Russian soldier” (the one on the top right):

An automatic translation of the tweet described the individuals as Ukrainian, not Russian.

On February 27 2022, a Reddit user shared three images (including the two in the “Russian soldier” tweet) to r/PublicFreakout. Its title described the images as a “marauder” detained by locals for theft, and the details matched the above-quoted February 27 2022 ua.korrespondent.net description:

A March 7 2022 Imgur post purportedly depicted a “Russian soldier [who] was marking buildings for rocket hits…and was doing a little looting on the side,” adding that “Ukrainian residents caught him looting, pulled his britches down, and … Saran wrapped him to a pole, and left him there for the police.” The images in the tweet circulated across platforms as early as February 27 2022. A February 28 2022 New York Post item captioned the image as a “reported ‘Russian collaborator,'” but an earlier and more local source claimed the individual “decided to take advantage of the lack of staff and lighting in a store” who was apprehended by locals in Nikolaev.