IN SHORT: Al Jazeera has dismissed the video as fake. It’s a mashup of unrelated images making an unsupported claim, and appears to have been produced simply to support Russia’s accusation that Ukrainians are Nazis.
“Drunken Ukrainian football fans drew a Hitler mustache and wrote ‘Sieg Heil’ on the Qatar World Cup symbol Laib,” begins one caption to a video circulating on social media in November 2022. The video claims the fans were arrested.
Qatar is a small country on the Persian Gulf coast of the Arabian peninsula. It’s currently hosting the month-long 2022 Fifa World Cup of men’s football. Qatar’s capital city is Doha.
The World Cup is held in a different country every four years. Since 1966, each tournament has had its own mascot, starting with England’s World Cup Willie.
Qatar’s 2022 mascot is La’eeb (not Laib), a name Fifa describes as “an Arabic word meaning super-skilled player”.
The video appears to have been produced by Al Jazeera. This global news network is based in Doha and gets funding from Qatar’s government. The video is slickly produced, carries the Al Jazeera logo and is similar to videos the network puts out on social media.
The video – and screengrabs of it – has appeared on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It’s reportedly been viewed more than 390,000 times on the messaging service Telegram.
But it’s fake.
Al Jazeera didn’t produce the video. And there have been no credible reports of Ukrainian football fans being arrested for defacing La’eeb with Nazi symbols.
The video has little to do with Qatar and the World Cup. It’s more about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But first, let’s see what it claims.
‘Laib’ gets Hitler moustache at ‘El Bait’ stadium
The 47-second video starts with a view of a Qatar World Cup stadium. It gives the location as Doha and the date as 20 November 2022.
“Ukrainian football fans were detained in Qatar,” text on the video reads.
It then cuts to a photo of football fans wearing the blue and yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag and waving blue and yellow banners. “Three drunken Ukrainians were spreading Nazi symbols in Doha,” the text reads.
It then pans over a still image of a La’eeb poster. The mascot seems to have had a small square moustache added to its face. “Sieg Heil” appears to have been graffitied next to it.
“Sieg Heil”, meaning “hail victory”, was a salute used by Germany’s Nazi party in the 1930s and 1940s. Today it’s used by neo-Nazis. Adolf Hitler, the Nazi party leader, had a small square moustache.
“The men were taken into custody when they added a Nazi salute and a ‘Hitler moustache’ on a picture of Laib, the mascot for the 2020 FIFA World Cup,” the video’s text reads.
The video then claims that “the Ukrainian fans had already destroyed more than ten posters near the El Bait stadium”. The text scrolls over a photo of Qatar’s Al Bayt stadium.
“At the time of their arrest, the Ukrainians made no resistance.” This claim appears over two short clips of men in white uniforms with black berets seemingly putting a person in a vehicle. But the person’s face is blurred out.
The video closes with the Al Jazeera logo.
What’s going on here?
Russia has justified its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022, as necessary to “denazify” its smaller western neighbour.
In the 1930s and 1940s, and during the second world war, Nazi Germany directly caused the deaths of 6 million Jewish people.
Millions of other people were killed, in what’s known as the holocaust. The Nazi regime was also responsible for the deaths of Roma people, Polish people, Serbian people, disabled people, LGBTQ+ people, Jehovah’s Witnesses and so-called “asocials”.
The second world war raged from 1939 until Germany’s defeat in 1945. The defeat was achieved by allies – the UK, USA, China and other countries. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or Soviet Union – with Russia at its core – was a decisive ally.
The Soviet Union suffered by far the highest number of deaths of all the allied countries in the war. Ukraine was one Soviet republic that had millions of deaths after it was occupied by the Nazis in 1941.
Ukrainians voted for their country to become independent in the early 1990s, after the USSR fell apart.
There is no evidence that Ukraine’s government or people are Nazis. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the country’s Russian-speaking elected president since 2019, has Jewish roots with family killed in the holocaust.
‘The video is completely fake’ – Al Jazeera
Here’s how we know the video is nonsense.
First, Al Jazeera says so. On 24 November the news network posted a statement on Twitter.
“A video circulating on social media attributed to Al Jazeera has been circulating referring to the arrest of Ukrainian fans during the FIFA World Cup,” it reads.
“The video in question is completely fake and Al Jazeera has never published any news related to this story.”
Second, the video – supposedly produced by Qatar-based Al Jazeera – seems to have been made by people who know little about Qatar.
The mascot La’eeb is misspelled as “Laib”. The Al Bayt stadium is misspelled as the “El Bait” stadium. More than this, the stadium isn’t in Doha – it’s in Al Khor, a city some 50 kilometres north of the capital.
Third is a frame-by-frame takedown of the video by Belgian journalist and fact-checker Brecht Castel. Castel uses open source intelligence to check facts.
Castel posted his analysis of the video in a thread on Twitter. Here are just a couple of highlights.
The video’s photo of Ukrainian football fans was shot in February 2022. The World Cup started in November.
The image of a La’eeb poster defaced with a Hitler moustache and “Sieg Heil” graffiti is probably doctored.
“Our analysis gives an indication that the part of the photo with ‘Sieg Heil’ may have been manipulated,” Dr Hannes Mareen, an expert in image and video forgery detection, told Castel.
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