On February 25 2022, posts about a young Ukrainian soldier named Vitaly Skakun circulated on social platforms like Imgur:
In the above post (“Vitaly skakun sacrificed his life to explode a bridge and stop the russian advance. may his memory be a blessing,” a screenshot of an untranslated Facebook post appeared. It appeared to originate with a verified page (“General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,”) but the text content of the post was not immediately clear.
Another popular iteration was shared to Twitter by the account @visegrad24 on February 25 2022; that account previously shared inaccurate information about the invasion of Ukraine. @visegrad24’s tweet was shared as a screenshot without attribution by the Facebook page “The Other 98%” the same day:
Vitaly Skakun is hailed as a hero after sacrificing his life to blow up the Henichesky Bridge.
The bridge was mined but a Russian column was advancing and there was no time to detonate it remotely.
Skakun radioed his unit and told them he would do it manually, saying goodbye. pic.twitter.com/6gqIFxlc01
— Visegrád 24 🇨🇿🇭🇺🇵🇱🇸🇰 (@visegrad24) February 25, 2022
One separate post on Imgur included several images, the first of the young man, and the rest showing large-print text describing Skakun’s actions:
Five hours before the initial post on Imgur appeared, a user shared a post about a bridge that was purportedly destroyed in a detonation near Kyiv to stop the Russian advance to the city. No details about the name of the bridge or circumstances of the photograph were included:
The image in the post appeared in news reports about the conflict in Ukraine, but information about it was scant:
As Russian forces advanced near the town of Irpin, Ukrainian forces blew up a bridge, seen here on Friday, to slow their advance. (via Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs)
We located the initial post shared by the Facebook page “Генеральний штаб ЗСУ / General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine” at 3:21 EST on February 25 2022. It included the same photograph of Skakun, and Facebook’s translation to English corroborated social media claims:
THE HEROES OF THE MOMENTUM. Pidled the city together with myself
On this difficult day for our country, when the Ukrainian people give away to the Russian occupiers in all directions, one of the hardest places on the map of Ukraine was the Crimean intersection, where one of the first enemies met a separate marine battalion.
In order to stop the promotion of the tank column, a decision was made to overthrow the Geniche Car Bridge.
The engineer of a separate battalion sailor Skakun Vitaliy Volodymyrovich was called to perform this task. The bridge was replaced, but he didn’t have time to get out of there. According to the words of the brothers, Vitaliy came out of contact, and informed about what pídrivâ the bridge. There was an explosion right away. Our brother was killed. His heroic act significantly slowed down the push of the enemy, allowing the unit to relocate and organize defense.
The Marine Corps Command will be concerned before the higher command about the awarding of the Skakun sailor Vitaliy Volodymyrovich state award.
Russian invaders, know, under your feet the earth will burn! We will fight as long as we live! And as long as we are alive we will fight!
On February 25 2022, posts across several platforms hailed Vitaly Skakun as a hero, stating that Skakun sacrificed his own life to detonate an explosive and destroy a bridge, stalling Russia’s advance in Ukraine. The official page for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine confirmed Skakun’s actions, adding that his “heroic act significantly slowed down the push of the enemy” and bought Ukrainian soldiers precious time to regroup.