Fact Check: Photo Purportedly Shows Abandoned McDonald's Near Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Here's the Truth

A photo purportedly showed an abandoned McDonald


A picture that went viral online in May 2024 authentically shows an abandoned McDonald's restaurant in Pripyat, Ukraine, near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster.


Rating: Fake
Rating: Fake

On May 1, 2024, a user on X (formerly Twitter) named @CheburekiMan posted a purported photo of a tall, abandoned McDonald's restaurant made entirely of concrete. The user's caption said the picture was shot in Pripyat, Ukraine, near the site of the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant — the worst such disaster in the history of nuclear power generation, according to Britannica.com.

However, the image of the abandoned McDonald's was not genuine. The user who originally posted it later added a reply indicating the picture was an "obvious AI image." Another X user, @IMTanuki, replied with a different fake image of a supposed abandoned McDonald's near Chernobyl, joking it was located "right down the street from Reactor 4."

How the Image Was Created

The image of the abandoned McDonald's restaurant posted by @CheburekiMan was created by Reddit user Agentcooper1974 with the use of the Midjourney artificial-intelligence generation platform, according to the user's January 2024 post on the r/midjourney subreddit. The post was titled, "Brutalist fast food restaurants in Eastern Europe and Russia."

Restaurants featured in the collection of AI-created images included KFC, McDonald's, In-N-Out Burger, Wendy's, Five Guys, Starbucks, Chipotle, Popeyes and Chick-fil-A.

Agentcooper1974 took credit for the series of images in subsequent comments under the Reddit post. According to those comments, the pictures were created by entering the text prompt "a photo of a large brutalist 'RESTAURANT NAME' fast food restaurant in 'PLACE' - stylize 250 --v 6" into Midjourney.

'Fallout,' Russia and Further Reposts

Many users shared the image of the fake abandoned McDonald's on various websites. For example, some users on X reposted the same image, including one person who asked about the location of the restaurant.

Other users on X posting the image made references in their captions to "Fallout" — a video game franchise and Prime Video streaming series set in post-apocalyptic times.

One TikTok user posted a video showing the same picture with the on screen words, "Russian McDonald's Abandoned During Fallout."

One fact perhaps worth noting with the original claim about Chernobyl and this video's mention of Russia was the first McDonald's restaurant didn't open in Russia until 1990, CNN reported. This was nearly four years after the disaster at Chernobyl. Further, the first McDonald's didn't open in Ukraine until 1997, according to Fandom.com.

Snopes found further posts from users talking about the AI-generated image of the abandoned McDonald's on FacebookInstagram and YouTube.


AI-Generated Images of Ronald McDonald Spider

In our research for this story, we found one user who posted the fake image of the abandoned McDonald's with another strange picture of a spiderlike Ronald McDonald — the long-time primary mascot of the fast-food company — hovering above children inside a McDonald's restaurant.

The picture of the spider-like Ronald McDonald possibly originated in an April 28 Facebook post on a page called A Different Type of Art that specializes in publishing AI-generated content.


We previously reported about a real abandoned McDonald's restaurant that was documented in a YouTube video as having much of its furniture and equipment left behind for years.


Agentcooper1974. "Brutalist Fast Food Restaurants in Eastern Europe and Russia." r/midjourney via Reddit.com, 24 Jan. 2024, https://www.reddit.com/r/midjourney/comments/19ep0dv/brutalist_fast_food_restaurants_in_eastern_europe/.

"Chernobyl Disaster | Causes, Effects, Deaths, Videos, Location, & Facts." Britannica.com, 29 Apr. 2024, https://www.britannica.com/event/Chernobyl-disaster.

"McDonald's Restaurants/Ukraine." McDonald's Wiki via Fandom.com, https://mcdonalds.fandom.com/wiki/McDonald%27s_restaurants/Ukraine.

"Search with an Image on Google." Google Search Help, https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808.

Wiener-Bronner, Danielle. "McDonald's Transformed Russia … Now It's Abandoning the Country | CNN Business." CNN, 10 Mar. 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/10/business/mcdonalds-russia-history/index.html.