Ukrainian military warns: if you've been naughty and have been spreading rumors, Santa isn't coming by! Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Ukrainian military warns: if you’ve been naughty and have been spreading rumors, Santa isn’t coming by! Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

On November 19, Ukrainian men woke up to discover that if they were under 45, they would now apparently have to cancel their travel plans for the start of 2016, as Ukraine was banning them from leaving the country. But was that really the case?

The Izvestia v Ukraine website ran a story titled “Starting January 1, Ukrainian Men Under 45 Banned from Leaving the Country.” The piece reported on an alleged new law that was set to come into force at the start of 2016 in Ukraine. The legislation, as described in the story, mandated Ukrainian men could not cross the border if they were younger than 45 years old, and even then, they had to have special dispensation from the military command. The news outlet sourced their report to an earlier story on Golos Pravdy website (also purporting to be a Ukrainian news outlet), which in turn claimed this information came from an unnamed source in the Ukrainian State Security Service.

Screenshot of the article from Golos Pravdy.

Screenshot of the article from Golos Pravdy

Although no official confirmation from Ukrainian authorities was available and no such law, draft or otherwise, could be found on the Ukrainian parliament’s website, the “story” quickly spread to other online media, although it was mostly republished by smaller, marginal websites, such as NA Kharkov (exposed earlier as a fake Ukrainian news site run by pro-Kremlin forces), Ukraina.ru, and Zavtra.ua.

Social media users reacted with disbelief to the news, and quickly suspected it was fake.

Did Russia announce a competition for the stupidest news about Ukraine and Izvestia v Ukraine decided to beat Life News?

A few hours later on Thursday, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine officially debunked the fake on their Facebook page, and added a bit of light-hearted humor while doing so.

Refutation:

1. Information about introducing a ban on travel from Ukraine for all men under 45 has no basis in reality.

2. Neither will there be any restrictions for men over 45 on leaving the country.

3. There also won’t be any travel restrictions for women. Regardless of their age.

4. The same goes for children.

5. No additional restrictions will be introduced on January 2, 2016, either.

6. Oh, and you will be able to take your pets out of the country too, within the existing veterinary control norms.

7. And carrying any material possessions across the border will be allowed within existing customs rules.

8. On January 1, 2016, we will see in the New Year. According to our sources from everywhere.

9. Santa Claus will not be paying a visit to those who spread rumors and unverified information.

10. And neither will Saint Nicholas.

A day before, on November 18, the US Embassy in Russia went on Twitter to expose a fake letter used as a basis for a report by Russian newspaper Izvestia. The report cited a “leaked” document allegedly written by the US State Department to Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev, and claimed that the United States offered to fund the publication of discrediting information about several top Russian state officials, outing them as gay.

By Tetyana Lokot, Global Voices