Fact Check: West Virginia Inspection Sticker On Car In Irpin, Ukraine, Is NOT An Improbability

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: West Virginia Inspection Sticker On Car In Irpin, Ukraine, Is NOT An Improbability Imported Used

Does a newsreel clip showing the shattered windshield of a car that was carrying American journalists when it came under gunfire near Irpin, Ukraine, show evidence of news media manipulation because the car appears to have a 2021 West Virginia inspection sticker? No, that's not true: While we cannot verify the specifics of the car in the file footage, it is not impossible or improbable for a used car from the United States to be in Ukraine. Many used cars are exported from the United States to nations overseas, with Ukraine being one of the top importers.

News that American journalist Brent Renaud was killed in Ukraine on March 13, 2022, was broadcast by many stations using the same file footage. Posts on social media appeared that same day, calling attention to the sticker in the shattered windshield that looks to be a West Virginia inspection sticker. One example posted on Facebook on March 13, 2022, is a handheld video of a newscast playing on a TV. The post has this caption:

How did a car from wv end up in Ukraine on nbc news.

This is how the post appeared at the time of writing:


(Image source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Mar 15 14:59:41 2022 UTC)

Below is a Lead Stories composite image (opens larger in a new tab) showing several screen captures of American news broadcasts that were shared on Twitter and Facebook (here, here, here, here and here) by people who questioned if this footage could show a U.S. car that was really in Ukraine, with some posts and comments implying media manipulation.


(Image source: Lead Stories composite of Twitter and Facebook screenshots taken on Tue Mar 15 15:29:41 2022 UTC)

The sticker appearing in the newsreel footage does appear to be a West Virginia inspection sticker. A file photo appearing in an article on ptonline.net is shown below for comparison.


(Image source: ptonline.net screenshot taken on Tue Mar 15 16:53:05 2022 UTC)

According to an October 26, 2020, report from the United Nations environment program, Ukraine was the sixth largest importer of used American cars in 2018. The United States, along with the EU and Japan, are the top three global exporters of used cars, the "Global Trade in Used Vehicles Report" says. On page 37 of the pdf, it says that in 2018 (the last year the report has recorded) Ukraine imported 34,871 used cars from the United States. On page 12, it says that used cars from the United States make up 18% of the global used car market.

The three largest exporters of used vehicles, the European Union (EU), Japan, and the United States of America (USA), exported 14 million used light duty vehicles (LDVs) worldwide between 2015 and 2018. The EU was the largest exporter with 54 per cent of the total followed by Japan (27 per cent) and the USA (18 per cent).

The major destinations for used vehicles from the EU are West and North Africa; Japan exports mainly to Asia and East and Southern Africa and the USA mainly to the Middle East and Central America.

Seventy per cent of exported LDVs head to developing countries. Africa imported the largest number (40 per cent) in the period studied followed by Eastern Europe (24 per cent), Asia-Pacific (15 per cent), the Middle East (12 per cent) and Latin America (nine per cent).

This is not the first time the appearance of a used American vehicle in a war zone caused people to jump to conclusions. In late 2014, photos of a black truck in Syria, still bearing the decals of a Texas plumbing company, now outfitted with a mounted twin-barreled anti-aircraft gun, began to circulate online. Some people thought the plumbing company might have ties to terrorists and left threatening messages at the number still on the truck's door.

When the original owner traded in his truck in 2013, the dealership told him they would remove the decals. They didn't. A lawsuit against the dealership was settled in October 2016.


(Image source: Twitter screenshots here and here taken on Tue Mar 15 16:36:52 2022 UTC)

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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