Ukrainian and Russian media recently posted a false report that a bulldozer had destroyed the graves of thirty-three Ukrainian soldiers who had died during anti-terrorist operations (ATO) in the town of Sumy. Local authorities were blamed.

Sumy website SpetsKor first posted the fake on November 14, and the news then spread among Russian and separatist websites, including Russkaya Vesna, Podrobnosti, and Obozrevatel.

Website Screenshot Russkaya Vesna

Website Screenshot Russkaya Vesna

Website Screenshot Obozrevatel

Website Screenshot Obozrevatel

SpetsKor claimed that Tatiana Andra, the mother of an artilleryman buried in the cemetery, had witnessed the destruction of the graves.

Website Screenshot SpetsKor

Website Screenshot SpetsKor

But Andra, commenting to StopFake, denied that she had said anything like it. “When I approached the cemetery, I saw a small tractor stuck in the mud,” she says. “Workers removed the ground from the grave hills manually and loaded wheelbarrows with it. The tractor was not riding over the graves. This is a lie. I don’t know why it was ascribed to me.”

This was also confirmed by Vadym Dubodielov, a volunteer with the non-governmental Sumy foundation, who has been coordinating the construction of a memorial for the fallen ATO fighters.  “There was no vandalism,” he says. “The ground from the grave hills was indeed removed manually. The small tractor was used in the part of the cemetery where there are no graves.”

The SpetsKor article also contained other pieces of false information –  for example, that crosses were torn off of graves and that the local authorities imposed their own design for memorials over the wishes of the families of the dead soldiers. Likewise, these claims have been discredited by families and volunteers.