Fact Check: BBC Did NOT Post Graph Of 'Fortunes Of Ukrainian Politicians'

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: BBC Did NOT Post Graph Of 'Fortunes Of Ukrainian Politicians' Doctored Pic

Did the BBC post a graph that showed a dramatic increase in the "Fortunes of Ukrainian politicians" between February 2022, when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and December 2022, after the receipt of billions of dollars in U.S. assistance? No, that's not true: The BBC did not post this image, which has been widely distributed on social media. It's a doctored image of an infographic that BBC News Ukrainian posted to show estimated wartime decreases in the wealth of five of Ukraine's most prominent businessmen.

The graph that is the subject of this fact check uses the same layout as the BBC infographic but features different people and different amounts. The graph provides no evidence to support its claim that five senior Ukrainian officials have profited financially from the 2022 war with Russia.

The claim appeared on Facebook on December 31, 2022, eight days after the U.S. Congress passed a $45 billion aid bill for Ukraine. The caption for the graph said:

US $Billions going to Ukraine.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of the writing of this fact check:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Jan 10 20:02:44 2023 UTC)

The graph, titled, "Fortunes of Ukrainian politicians," focused on five senior Ukrainian officials: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Kyiv Mayor Volodymyr Klychko and senior presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak.

The image had a BBC logo in the lower righthand corner and the wording "Sources: Forbes, Getty Images" in the lower lefthand corner.

A Google search of "Fortunes of Ukrainian politicians" on the BBC Ukrainian site did not yield any related graphic or a list of these five officials and their estimated wealth.

BBC News Ukrainian did post a graphic on their Facebook page on December 23, 2022, that featured a similar layout, but focused on five so-called Ukrainian oligarchs: Rinat Akhmetov, Viktor Pinchuk, Vadim Novinsky, Ihor Kolomoyskyy and Petro Poroshenko, the former Ukrainian president. Citing Forbes, which regularly ranks Ukrainian businesspeople's wealth, BBC News Ukrainian noted in its caption that "the wealth of the richest people in Ukraine has changed since the beginning of the war." It credits Forbes and Getty Images for the graphic.

Screen Shot 2023-01-10 at 12.53.37 PM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Jan 10 20:35:29 2023 UTC)

This graphic was also published on the BBC website in a story titled, "Russia's war drains Ukraine's rich list of power." The graphic was titled, "Ukrainian billionaires' net worth," and showed a significant drop in their wealth between February 2022, when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and December 2022, the month in which the BBC posted the graphic.

The Ukrainian edition of Forbes published an article in December 2022 titled, "20 of the richest Ukrainians in 2022," which only had information about wealthy entrepreneurs and the war's estimated impact on their finances. The article did not address government officials.

Neither the BBC, nor Forbes mentions the five senior Ukrainian officials featured in the graph on Facebook in their coverage of these billionaires. Indeed, in an April 2022 article, Forbes, debunking claims that the Ukrainian president is a billionaire, estimated Zelenskyy's wealth at less than $30 milion.

As of January 10, 2023, Lead Stories could find no credible news reports, including from regional investigative specialists Bellingcat or Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, that Zelenskyy or the other Ukrainian officials included in the doctored graphic had profited from the U.S. assistance sent to their country since Russia's full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022. A search on the website of anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, a non-profit organization that annually ranks perceptions of corruption throughout Ukraine's region, also came up blank.

Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims about the ongoing war in Ukraine can be found here.

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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