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Fact check: False claim that Putin rescued 35,000 imprisoned Ukrainian children

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 4/21/2022 Sudiksha Kochi, USA TODAY
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The claim: Russian President Vladimir Putin rescued 35,000 imprisoned Ukrainian children

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on economic issues via videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 18, 2022. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) ORG XMIT: XAZ102 © Mikhail Klimentyev, AP Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on economic issues via videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 18, 2022. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) ORG XMIT: XAZ102

Nearly 4.8 million Ukrainian children have been displaced amid the Russian invasion, but some online claim the attack is a "special operation" to help save their lives.

A Facebook post shared April 16 shows an image of Russian President Vladimir Putin kissing a child's hand.

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"President Vladimir Putin released 35,000 children from tunnels and subways in Ukraine," reads the caption of the post. 

The post includes a link to an April 5 article from Real Raw News, a website that has previously published false claims. Citing an unnamed Mar-a-Lago source, the article claims Putin told former President Donald Trump about this rescue effort in a phone call.

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The post generated over 200 interactions in less than a week. Another Facebook post shared April 11 includes a link to the Real Raw News article with the caption, "Finally some good news." Similar posts have amassed hundreds of interactions on Twitter. 

But the claim is false. There is no evidence Putin rescued 35,000 imprisoned Ukrainian children. The claim ties into the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.

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Putin did not rescue 35,000 children

USA TODAY found no evidence in credible news reports or on the Russian government's official website that indicates Putin rescued 35,000 imprisoned Ukrainian children.

The Real Raw News article ties into the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, which alleges there is a global cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic child sex traffickers that use underground tunnels. The conspiracy theory's claims have been debunked.

A disclaimer on Real Raw News' about page says the site "contains humor, parody, and satire." However, the disclaimer is not included in the article, leading social media users to take its claim as fact.

Fact check: False claim about Ukraine, child sex trafficking and money laundering

The picture in the Facebook post is also unrelated to the Russian invasion. Glavred, a media outlet in Ukraine, reported it shows Putin kissing a girl's hand in 2012 during "celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino," according to a Google translation

USA TODAY has previously debunked false claims Real Raw News has published, including allegations that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was arrested by the military and that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was hanged at Guantanamo Bay.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Putin rescued 35,000 imprisoned Ukrainian children. There is no evidence to support the claim, which ties into the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.

Our fact-check sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim that Putin rescued 35,000 imprisoned Ukrainian children

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