Following the G20 summit in Germany, Russian media personalities and politicians started sharing a badly photoshopped photo of Vladimir Putin being surrounded by other world leaders, including Donald Trump.
However, as many online pointed out, the original photo shows those leaders gathered around an empty chair.
Another big giveaway that the photo is fake is the ribbon Angela Merkel is wearing. The ribbon of St. George is a military award which has been adapted by patriots as a symbol for Russian nationalism.
That didn't stop pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergey Markov from sharing the photo with his 22,000 Facebook followers. He then posted the photo again, saying he told Russian independent media outlet TV Rain that the photo is not a fake, just a photoshopped joke.
It appears one of the first big accounts to have posted the fake was Vladimir Soloviev, a pro-Kremlin TV host. He has since deleted the photo, but not before it took on a life of its own.
The photo sparked news reports; discussions on Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook; and countless memes.
The official Kremlin website that debunks "published materials that contain false information about Russia" has yet to dispute the widely shared photo.
Jane Lytvynenko is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada. PGP fingerprint: A088 89E6 2500 AD3C 8081 BAFB 23BA 21F3 81E0 101C.
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