A video of an Easter church service in Russia on Sunday sparked questions about whether Russian leader Vladimir Putin actually attended.
Footage of the church service, which has been viewed by more than 530,000 so far, comes back to Putin repeatedly. At one point, this cuts Putin making the sign of the cross gesture while holding a candle.
Ukrainian racing driver Igor Sushko posted the clip on his Twitter page and accused Russia of spreading “propaganda” as the country enters the ninth week of its invasion of Ukraine.
“Russian Propaganda Fake: Easter on Russian State Television. Putin was too cowardly to be present in the church during the actual event,” he tweeted. “Pre-recorded footage of him has been added, and pretty badly. He’s missing next to the painting of a crown on a red table hanging on the wall.”
Other images have emerged on Twitter that appear to show Putin making the gesture in an empty church. Managing director of consultancy TLFRD Baltics, Mykhailo Golub, claimed on Twitter that the footage of Putin was shot separately. “Someone in the Kremlin leaked how the Easter church service was filmed. Putin’s footage was filmed separately,” he tweeted.
Sushko also tweeted the video and claimed Putin’s appearance was pre-recorded.
“Someone captured Putin on video during pre-recording of him in an empty church protected by his bodyguards. This footage was then broadcast “live” on Russian state propaganda television, sprinkled in the actual images of Easter services.”
However, BBC journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh dismissed those theories and said the Twitter feed was spreading false claims. He also shared photos from the religious event which can be found on the website of media company Getty to illustrate that Putin was present at the event in person during the service.
“It’s Day 60 of the war in Ukraine. A viral Twitter feed falsely claims that footage of President Putin at the Orthodox Easter Mass was pre-recorded and edited, indicating that he was not there,” tweeted Sardarizadeh. “Mass agency photos clearly show him at the event wearing the exact same suit and tie.”
The Associated Press Fact Check Twitter page also tweeted that Putin was at the event.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin attended an Orthodox Easter service in Moscow on Sunday, contrary to false claims online. The Associated Press photographed him at the service.”
The report the AP shared with its tweet said that Reuters and Agence France-Presse also published their own photographs of Putin from the service.
Newsweek contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.