March 9, 2022

As Russia continues its attack on Ukraine, misinformation continues to spread about the conflict.

“Putin bombs Biden-owned villa in Ukraine while hammering biolabs & pedophile rings,” reads the headline of a recent story by Real Raw News, a website that regularly publishes made-up stories.

And this story is no different — it was fabricated.

We found no evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin bombed property owned by President Joe Biden or that the president owns any villas in Ukraine. Claims about nefarious biolabs in Ukraine — some supposedly “U.S. owned” — have permeated social media since the Russian invasion. But these claims are also bogus, and part of disinformation efforts by Russians. And the claim about “pedophile rings” is unsubstantiated.

The article was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

PolitiFact investigation in September found that Real Raw News is authored by Michael Tuffin, who previously ran several other websites and associated YouTube channels that also promoted misinformation and far-fetched conspiracy theories. His websites publish information under the pseudonym “Michael Baxter.”

The website’s “About Us” page features a disclaimer saying it “contains humor, parody and satire,” but the author of the articles often insists in the site’s comment sections that the content is legitimate. Real Raw News’ stories are often republished by other sites that pass off the information as real news.

There are no U.S.-run biolabs in Ukraine. Ukraine is one of many former Soviet Union republics, and other countries, partnering with the U.S. Defense Department as part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to improve public health laboratories and prevent the threat of outbreaks of infectious diseases.

While the U.S. may provide funding to upgrade or build labs in other countries, the labs are run by the partnering nations and the program’s goal is to prevent biological threats, not create them.

“These laboratories have recently played an important role in stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Andy Weber, a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors and a former assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, previously told PolitiFact.

That effort is part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which began in 1991 to reduce the threat of existing weapons of mass destruction programs in former Soviet republics.

It’s unclear what the blog post is talking about in its reference to “pedophile rings.” The story claims that Putin is wiping out “child trafficking covens” in Ukraine but we found no evidence that these exist. The story pins this claim on an unnamed “source.”

We rate this story Pants on Fire!

This fact check was originally published by PolitiFact, which is part of the Poynter Institute. It is republished here with permission. See the sources for this fact check here and more of their fact checks here.

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Samantha Putterman is a fact-checker for PolitiFact based in New York. Previously, she reported for the Bradenton Herald and the Tampa Bay Times. She is…
Samantha Putterman

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