VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Video claiming Ukraine set nuclear power plant on fire NOT TRUE


A video, created to explain the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia to Filipinos and published by a local YouTube channel, has falsely claimed several countries concluded that Ukrainians set fire to its nuclear power plant to tarnish the image of Russian President Vladimir Putin and rally international military support.

Not true. Only Russia claimed the fire was caused by the Ukrainians.

The same day the blaze struck the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Enerhodar, Ukraine on March 4, foreign ministers of several countries urged Russia to halt attacks in Ukraine, especially where nuclear facilities were.

The 10-minute false video, titled “ito PALA totoong dahilan Bakit Walang TUMUTULONG sa UKRAINE (this is the real reason why Ukraine is not getting help)!”, was published March 6 by the verified YouTube channel ASK TEACHER POPONG.

The content was a screengrab of footage that showed the fire at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, traceable via reverse image search to Getty Images.

Speaking in Filipino, a narrator claimed the following about the fire:

  • That “many countries” concluded the Ukrainians caused the blaze;
  • That Ukrainians committed the act “to tarnish Putin’s image,” and “to make its neighboring countries panic and mobilize their militaries” to participate in the war.

International Atomic Energy Authority Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, in a press briefing on March 4, said the projectile that hit a building near the plant’s nuclear reactors, causing the fire, was understood to have been launched by Russian forces.

In a statement to the United Nations (UN) Security Council, Ukraine’s representative Sergiy Kyslytsya attributed the fire to Russian shelling.

Denying this, both Russia’s UN representative Vassily Nebenzia and Defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed that a Ukrainian “sabotage group” provoked the Russian military and set fire at a training center as they left.

In a joint statement on March 4, foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, and the High Representative of the European Union urged Russia to stop its attacks in the direct vicinity of nuclear power plants.

This video of ASK TEACHER POPONG (created on Dec. 29, 2018) got over 317,000 views on YouTube. A copy uploaded on March 7 by the Facebook page Philippines New Presidente 2022 (Oct. 24, 2021) garnered 51,000 reactions, 4,900 comments, and 7,500 shares. In total, it has racked up over 2.1 million views. The distorted video emerged two days after the incident happened at the power plant.


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(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)