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Fact-check: Was Ukraine's ex-Defence minister caught partying on a yacht in the South of France?

Ukraine's former Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov during a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, June 15, 2023.
Ukraine's former Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov during a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, June 15, 2023. Copyright Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Sophia Khatsenkova with AFP
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Viral social media posts claim Oleksiy Reznikov was seen partying on a yacht in the South of France days after leaving his post as defence minister of Ukraine. But these photos pre-date the war in Ukraine and were taken in Turkey in 2020.

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Was the newly dismissed Ukrainian Defence minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, spotted on a luxurious yacht in the South of France as Russia continues its invasion?

The claim has gained traction on multiple social media platforms as users shared a photo of Reznikov next to a woman seemingly partying on a boat.

"This is the former Minister of Defence of Ukraine Reznikov after his resignation. He is already in Europe on a yacht," said one account.

"Sacked #Ukraine defence minister #Reznikov partying on a yacht moored off the #CoteDAzur, maybe spending some of those millions he's stolen? Meanwhile, Ukrainians he press-ganged are sent to die every day," said another X user. 

The claim that money sent to Ukraine has been stolen by government officials is a common propaganda narrative spread by pro-Kremlin accounts.

Where and when was the photo taken?

After doing a reverse image search, Euronews found the photo is more than three years old and therefore unquestionably pre-dates Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which started in February 2022.

The original photo was posted on Reznikov’s official Facebook page on Valentine’s Day in 2020.

The former minister shared several photos celebrating his engagement to Yulia Zoriy, a TV presenter.

День закоханих. Сердечні листівки домінують сьогодні у всіх стрічках. Колись я зробив пост,в момент звільнення з...

Posted by Oleksii Reznikov on Friday, February 14, 2020

The photo was taken before Reznikov even became the Ukrainian defence minister, which was in November 2021.

Moreover, this photo wasn’t even taken in the South of France but in Istanbul, Turkey in front of the Rumeli Fortress on the Bosphorus Strait, according to AFP. 

Why was Oleksiy Reznikov fired?

On 3 September, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the dismissal of his defence minister, Oleksiy Reznikov.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Reznikov confirmed that he had submitted his resignation letter to the country's parliament.

Reznikov was replaced by former businessman Rustem Umerov. 

Six Ukrainian deputy defence ministers were fired on 18 September following the dismissal of Reznikov.

Although Reznikov didn’t face any allegations of corruption himself, his ministry had been dogged by accusations of corruption including that the ministry bought goods and equipment for the army at inflated prices. 

Several Ukrainian outlets report the Ministry of Defence in late 2022 signed a contract with a Turkish company to supply winter uniforms, which then tripled in price.

Ukrainian journalists have determined this gear can be purchased in Turkey at prices well below those paid by the ministry.

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