On December 2nd, 2022, the founder of the anti-liberal social movement “Georgian Mission,” Ramaz Gagnidze, published a photo of two half-naked men wearing wigs. According to the caption, the photo was taken at New York Pride in 1999 and shows the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the advisor of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Oleksii Arestovych.
The disseminated post is a fabrication aiming to discredit Volodymyr Zelensky and Arestovych on homophobic grounds. In fact, the photo has been altered, and the faces of Zelenskyy and Arestovych were inserted instead of the faces of the Pride participants. In addition, the photo was taken in 2006 instead of 1999.
The photo used as evidence to claim that Zelenskyy and Arestovych attended the 1999 New York Pride, has been altered by software. The authentic photo depicts neither the president of Ukraine nor his adviser. The people in the original photo have makeup on their faces, but in the altered photo, no traces of makeup are visible.
The author of the photo is Thomas Locke Hobbs, who has uploaded his and other photos taken at the 2006 NYC pride on Flickr.
Pride participants depicted in the photos are wearing military-themed attire. The fact-checking platform AFP contacted one of the Pride participants, Jesse Archer, who noted that the reason for choosing the army-themed visuals was that, at that time, they were protesting the Iraq war and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy was introduced during the Clinton administration towards non-heterosexuals in the military, allowing LGBTQ+ members to serve in the military as long as they did not disclose their orientation.
About the Source
Ramaz Gagnidze is one of the founders of the social movement “Georgian Mission“. The movement is characterized by homophobic, anti-liberal and racist narratives.
Ramaz Gagnidze was actively involved in the violent and homophobic demonstration of July 5th, 2021. He is one of the organizers of the rally and was taken for questioning by the police on July 16th.
Gagnidze was an activist of the “Georgian March” in the past. As stated in the study “Anatomy of Georgian Neo-Nazism” by “Transparency International Georgia”, Gagnidze, along with other members of the “Georgian March” during the 2017 self-government elections, went to Khashuri to support the independent candidate Ramaz Nozadze. In addition, in 2014, Gagnidze ran for the majoritarian candidacy in Digmi district on behalf of the “Nino Burjanadze – United Opposition” coalition. Ramaz Gagnidze currently supports “Alt-Info” and often appears as a respondent on the mentioned TV channel.
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