On January 4-6th, 2023, photos of a caricature 3D graffiti depicting the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, were distributed on Facebook (1,2,3,4,5,6,7). The graffiti depicts Zelenskyy as a pimple. According to the descriptions, the graffiti was painted in Berlin by Polish artists from the ‘topicaloptical.’ In one of the posts, one can observe a screenshot of topicaloptical’s Instagram story; the account posted a photo of graffiti with the following description: “Zelensky is the biggest pimple in the world. In 2023 we must squeeze it out.”
The circulated photo has been verified by the German fact-checking agency Correctiv. The photo was processed using a computer program and does not depict reality. The place shown in the photo is in Switzerland, not in Berlin. A representative of the civil engineering and waste disposal department of the city of Zurich confirmed that the graffiti of Zelenskyy was not painted on this location. Instagram account “topicaloptical” has disseminated fabricated photos of Zelensky’s caricature graffiti in the past as well.
The photo of the caricature graffiti of Zelenskyy has been circulated on other social networks as well. Namely, on Twitter and Russian-language telegram channels. The photo was verified by the German fact-checking agency Correctiv.
According to Correctiv, a photo of the graffiti in the form of a collage was posted by the Instagram account topicaloptical on January 3rd. At the moment, the corresponding posts on the account page are not available. But there is an archived version of the post provided by Correctiv.
The place shown in the photo is located in Zurich, near the Bahnhofstrasse, where the renovation of the historical building of the Swiss Life Brannhof shopping centre is underway.
Pio Sulzer, Communications Manager of the Department of Civil Engineering and Waste Disposal of the City of Zurich, confirmed the location of the photo to Correctiv and also verified the presence of graffiti on the spot. Sulzer confirmed that there were no drawings or traces of paint in the square. Representatives of Correctiv also took photos of the area for comparison with the circulated photograph.
Employees of Correctiv were also able to meet the seller of the stall shown in the photo. In a conversation with the publication, the seller noted that he remembered a man who pretended to be an artist and allegedly painted something. But the cartoonish graffiti was not painted on the spot.
Correctiv also contacted the Waste Management and Recycling Department of the City of Zurich. The department is responsible for cleaning the streets in the city. Tobias Nussmann, head of communications, told the agency that the department has not had a case of erasing such graffiti; moreover, there has been no information about the presence of such graffiti on Bahnhofstrasse or anywhere else in the city.
Fabricated photos of caricature graffiti depicting Vladimir Zelensky have been periodically distributed by the topicaloptical Instagram account since November 2022. Information about the presence of such graffiti in different cities of Europe was fact-checked by “Myth Detector” earlier as well. Read more here:
- Kremlin Media Disseminates a Fabricated Caricature of Zelenskyy in Paris
- Pro-Kremlin Media Disseminates a Fabricated Photo of Graffiti of Zelenskyy in Madrid
The article has been written in the framework of Facebook’s fact-checking program. You can read more about the restrictions that Facebook may impose based on this article via this link. You can find information about appealing or editing our assessment via this link.