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Fact-check: What's up with the anti-Zelenskyy billboard in Tokyo?

FILE: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, is escorted by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Hiroshima, May 2023
FILE: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, is escorted by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Hiroshima, May 2023 Copyright AP
Copyright AP
By Sophia Khatsenkova with AFP
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Did Japanese authorities really put up an anti-Zelenskyy billboard demanding the president stop the war in Ukraine?


It’s a viral social media post that’s been seen millions of times on different platforms, published in multiple languages

It alleges to show an advertisement broadcast in a busy street in Japan that says in English: “Stop Zelenskyy, stop the war."

But by doing a reverse image search, Euronews found the original clip on Youtube posted in October 2020, more than a year before Russia invaded Ukraine. 

The account that published this video claims “to share the virtualised experience of being in Japan, and hopes to provide a slice of everyday life of what it's really like to be there.”

The description of the video on Youtube says this clip was filmed in Shibuya, a neighbourhood in Tokyo.  

The viral clip posted on Twitter appears to start around the 21:20 second mark into the original Youtube video. 

How do we know it’s the same clip? Apart from the easily recognisable tracking shot, there are other clues. 

For example, the black taxi and the yellow one on the left. The man in a suit crossing the road on the bottom right of the clip is also the same. 

Also, the motorbike parked at the pedestrian crossing in the centre of the video is identical in both clips. 

These are all the different clues the Twitter video has been alteredEuronews

However, in the original clip, there is no sign calling for the end of the war but instead advertisements featuring several Japanese models. 

By doing a reverse image search, we found the original ad which turned out to be for a  cosmetic surgery clinic in Tokyo. 

Moreover, we found no news articles about this anti-Zelenskyy advertisement in English or in Japanese. 

A few days before this digitally altered video was posted on social media, Japan expanded its sanctions against Moscow, including an embargo on electric and hybrid cars exported to Russia.

Tokyo had already frozen the assets of numerous Russian individuals and groups and banned the exports of goods and services to multiple Russian companies. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been a regular target of misleading video footage shared on social media.

The Cube had previously fact-checked a photoshopped anti-Zelenskyy graffiti that popped up in Paris and in other European cities at the beginning of the year.

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