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Fact-check: Do these photos of gravestones prove Ukraine is sending children to war?

Ukrainian soldiers fire a mortar towards Russian positions at the front line, near Bakhmut, Donetsk region
Ukrainian soldiers fire a mortar towards Russian positions at the front line, near Bakhmut, Donetsk region Copyright LIBKOS/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright LIBKOS/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Sophia Khatsenkova
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Multiple social media users have been sharing photos of gravestones suggesting soldiers under 18 years old are dying on the frontlines.

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Users on the social platform X, formerly known as Twitter, have shared pictures of alleged graves of fallen Ukrainian soldiers. One soldier is said to be 16 while the other is allegedly 17 years old.

"Ukraine is using child soldiers," tweeted one account referring to the picture of the alleged 16-year-old.

"The Ukrainian Army is already sending children to slaughter," said another post which gained nearly 140,000 views as of 24 August. 

These pictures have been shared in multiple languages including French, Italian,and Russian.

By doing a reverse image search of the first photo, Euronews found that in reality the picture has been digitally altered. 

The original photo was published by the Ukrainian online news outlet Vikna in January 2023. 

The article pays homage to a 21-year-old Ukrainian soldier from the city of Kalush, in Western Ukraine, who reportedly died fighting in Kramatorsk, in the Donetsk region. 

The person in the photo looks nothing like the one on the viral post and there are no dates on the real gravestone.

The Cube conducted a reverse image search of the second photo that describes the alleged death of a soldier who was supposedly only 16 years old at the time. 

But once again, we found this photo had been altered. 

We found the original post on Instagram and the photo was published in June 2023. 

Once again, the man looks nothing like the one in the social media post. The dates have also been altered. 

The original photo shows us the individual was born in 1996, therefore he couldn’t have been 16 years old during Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine which started in February 2022. 

Euronews also checked the Ukrainian Parliament’s website, and according to the country’s laws: “Male citizens of Ukraine who are fit for [military service] in terms of their health, who have reached the age of 18 by the day of being sent to military units, and older persons who have not reached the age of 27 and do not have the right to exemption or postponement are called up for military service."

The conscription of young adults aged 18 or older in Ukraine is different from military mobilisation during the war. 

But in both cases, soldiers need to be at least 18 years old to be able to join the military.

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