Did new graffiti negatively portraying Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appear in London? No, that's not true: Based on analysis of open-source data, Lead Stories identified the location of the purported drawing as Lindt Home of Chocolate in Zurich, Switzerland. The Lindt Home of Chocolate spokesperson confirmed to Lead Stories that the posts in question showed the front of their building, but categorically denied that the drawing ever appeared there.
The claim originated from a post published on Telegram on January 18, 2023. Its caption, reflecting an unofficial spelling of the Ukrainian president's last name, said:
Shit happens in Europe. Thank you, Zelensky!
Here is what it looked like at the time of the writing of this fact check:
(Source: Telegram screenshot taken on Thu Jan 19 15:43:26 2023 UTC)
The same image, split into fragments, appeared on an Instagram account also identified as "Typical Optical":
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Thu January 19 18:04:57 2023 UTC)
The geotag attached to the pieces of the composite image posted on Instagram identified London as the location of the photo:
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Thu Jan 19 18:08:46 2023 UTC)
Comparing unique identifiers of the particular spot shown in the picture with publicly available photo and video materials, Lead Stories concluded that the actual location was not London, but Zurich, Switzerland.
Using a reverse image search, Lead Stories found that the closest match to the building's facade is the headquarters of the Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Sprüngli, located at 1 Schokoladenplatz in Kilchberg, a municipality in the Swiss canton of Zurich.
The company's website displays a photo of the headquarters' facade, apparently taken in summer, but without the Christmas trees and irreguarly shaped white benches seen in the Instagram and Telegram posts.
Google Maps images of the chocolatier's Zurich headquarters, however, include the benches:
(Source: Google Maps screenshot taken on Wed January 18 23:59:40 2023 UTC)
One of the videos on Google Maps, taken on November 22, 2022, also showed the benches, and Christmas trees placed behind the coffee tables as an apparent part of temporary decorations for the winter holiday season:
(Source: Google Maps screenshot taken on Wed Jan 18 00:10:21 2023 UTC)
Lead Stories also found an image that shows the entire word, "WELCOME," whose ending, "OME," is seen on the building's entrance doors in the Instagram and Telegram posts.
(Sources: Telegram screenshot taken on Thu Jan 19 15:43:26 2023 UTC; Google Maps screenshot taken on Wed Jan 18 00:14:42 2023 UTC; composite image by Lead Stories)
The same fragment of the photo posted by "Typical Optical" also contained another inscription, which is a little more recognizable on Instagram. While not entirely readable, the outline of the word -- and especially its first letter -- resemble the Lindt logo, which can be seen on its chocolate bars:
(Sources: Instagram screenshot taken on Thu January 19 18:04:57 2023 UTC; YouTube screenshot taken on Thu January 19 17:36:56 2023 UTC; composite image by Lead Stories)
After collecting this evidence, Lead Stories contacted the chocolatier about the Zelenskyy graffiti claim. Daniel Huggenberger, a Lindt Home of Chocolate PR manager, replied on January 19, 2023, via email that:
Indeed, this is in front of the Lindt Home of Chocolate in Zurich. However, the graffiti has never been there. So, it is a fake!
The company temporarily suspended its operations in Russia in March 2022 after the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
However, as of January 19, 2023, no one had shared other photos of the graffiti on social media. The account Typical Optical, known for posted non-existent images of Zelenskyy, was the only source that posted the picture of the graffiti.
As of this writing, "Typical Optical" describes itself as a "not yet famous art-group from 🇵🇱," using the Polish national flag in place of the name of Poland.
The account has drawn the attention of fact-checking organizations across the globe for repeated posts of supposed drawings of Zelenskyy that do not exist. Lead Stories previously debunked claims about these images here and here.
Additional Lead Stories fact checks about the ongoing war in Ukraine can be found here.