September 21, 2022

Billionaire philanthropist George Soros is a regular bogeyman in online misinformation. We’ve debunked claims that he’s a Nazi who funded antifa and protests in Minneapolis, and that he was behind a news website in Missouri and a lab that developed and released COVID-19.

Now, an Instagram post claimed that in a 2014 CNN interview, Soros admitted to “being behind the political upheaval in Ukraine.”

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

We found the interview that the post refers to; it doesn’t show Soros admitting responsibility for the current war in Ukraine, as some reading the post might believe.

Soros’ philanthropy is focused on promoting democracy around the world and he is a longtime donor and promoter of liberal and progressive causes.

In May 2014, he spoke with CNN host Fareed Zakaria about his philanthropic efforts in relation to the conflict then occurring between Ukraine and Russia.

Zakaria first asked about revolutions among Eastern bloc countries in 1989 that led to the end of communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

“One of the things that many people recognized about you was that you, during the revolutions of 1989, funded a lot of dissident activities, civil society groups in Eastern Europe and Poland, the Czech Republic,” Zakaria said. “Are you doing similar things in Ukraine?”

Soros responded: “Well, I set up a foundation in Ukraine before Ukraine became independent of Russia. And the foundation has been functioning ever since. And it played a — an important part in events now.”

This comment is the crux of the claim that Soros admitted he’s behind upheaval in Ukraine. It’s not a secret that Soros’ Open Society Foundations funded projects in the 1980s aimed at “undermining the Communist Party’s grip on power,” as Politico put it several years ago.

“These ranged from sponsoring international art exchanges to launching independent student groups,” the publication said.

In 1990, about a year before Ukraine became independent of the Soviet Union, Open Society Foundations established the International Renaissance Foundation in Kyiv. According to the foundation, it’s aimed at “developing an open society in Ukraine since 1990 where everybody has a sense of dignity, citizens are involved in the formation of the state, and the authorities are transparent and responsible.”

But in 2014, when Zakaria interviewed Soros, anti-government protesters in Ukraine had recently toppled the government and run the Russian-backed president out of the country. The president had rejected a deal for greater integration with the European Union, leading to mass protests, Vox reported at the time. Russia then invaded and annexed Crimea and by April, pro-Russia separatist rebels had started seizing territory in eastern Ukraine.

In the interview, Soros went on to say that Russian President Vladimir Putin would try to “destabilize Ukraine” even though “the large majority of Ukrainians are determined to be independent of Russia.”

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

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Ciara O'Rourke is a contributing writer for PolitiFact. Previously, Ciara covered local government and public safety for the Austin American-Statesman and fact-checked elected officials and…
Ciara O'Rourke

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