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Video shows Ukrainian entrepreneur in Dubai, not official's son dodging military duty

A satirical video posted by a tech entrepreneur living in Dubai has been shared by pro-Russian accounts falsely claiming it shows the son of a high-ranking Ukrainian official shirking military duty in Monaco. The video is one of hundreds posted as part of a TikTok trend that all share the same audio.

"The son of a Ukrainian prosecutor, together with a nurse, is in a hurry to get into a tuned Kirpi in order to get to Avdiivka from Europe in time for the evening fight," reads the caption to a video shared on social media platform X by a New Zealand-based user on January 12, 2024.

A Kirpi is an armoured vehicle, and Avdiivka is an industrial hub in eastern Ukraine that fell to Russian forces after one of the war's bloodiest battles in February 2024.

The video shows a man and a woman walking towards a blue jeep as the person filming the video says in Russian: "Monaco Battalion, guys, the son of a well-known Ukrainian prosecutor flaunts expensive cars in Europe while his dad works. Here you go."

"Why are you filming me, clown?" the man replies, also in Russian.

The term "Monaco Battalion" was coined by the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper to describe wealthy Ukrainians of fighting age who left the country after Russia's invasion in February 2024. They found many wound up in Monaco and the French Riviera.

<span>Screenshot of the false X post, captured on March 28, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the false X post, captured on March 28, 2024

The same clip was also shared by dozens of other -- often pro-Russian -- accounts on X, including here, here, here and here.

It also circulated in early January 2024 in multiple Russian Telegram channels known for propagating Kremlin narratives, including the public channel ZERGULIO which has 300,000 subscribers and the private VOBLYA channel which has 1.6 million subscribers.

<span>Screenshot of misrepresented video on a popular private Telegram channel</span>
Screenshot of misrepresented video on a popular private Telegram channel

Similar videos with the same man and audio track, like this one, have popped up across social platforms for months, with prominent Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov sharing the edited clip in August 2023.

The idea that the children of high-ranking officials are avoiding military service while ordinary Ukrainians serve is "very actively used by Russian propaganda", said Olena Churanova, a fact-checker for Ukrainian fact-checking organisation StopFake.org.

Churanova also told AFP in email on February 27 that "prosecutor's son" is often used to describe people who are perceived to enjoy protection or benefits because of their relatives in high-ranking positions.

The videos were in fact created by a Ukrainian entrepreneur in Dubai and were originally shared as a joke.

TikTok trend

Using a combination of reverse image searches and keyword searches, AFP found hundreds of TikTok users had posted similar clips of themselves with expensive cars and used the same audio seen in the falsely shared videos (archived link).

This also led to the TikTok account of the person shown in the falsely shared videos, a Ukrainian entrepreneur named Anatolii Shynkarev (archived link).

Shynkarev has uploaded dozens of similar short videos since August 2023, some of which (here, here, here, here and here) have millions of views.

All of these videos use the TikTok audio track "Батальон Монако" -- "Monaco Battalion" in English -- which first featured in a clip posted by the user @N.perepechaev27 on July 25, 2023 (archived links here and here).

<span>Screenshot of TikTok's archive of the "Monaco Battalion" audio track</span>
Screenshot of TikTok's archive of the "Monaco Battalion" audio track

In the video that Shynkarev posted on December 31, 2023, he responds to a user who said it was a joke (archived link).

"Good on you, you speak the truth," Shynkarev said.

<span>Screenshot of Shynkarev's comment acknowledging his video was a joke</span>
Screenshot of Shynkarev's comment acknowledging his video was a joke

AFP found one instance where Shynkarev also acknowledged his videos were used in pro-Kremlin propaganda.

In a comment on his Instagram account, he asked people to send him "videos of the Kremlin propaganda spin on me."

<span>Screenshot of Shynkarev's comment on Instagram asking people to send him "videos of the Kremlin propaganda spin"</span>
Screenshot of Shynkarev's comment on Instagram asking people to send him "videos of the Kremlin propaganda spin"

Dubai, not Monaco

Features seen in the background of the video posted by Shynkarev also correspond to Google Street View imagery of Dubai -- not Monaco (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the falsely shared video (left) and Google Street View imagery from Dubai (right), with corresponding features highlighted by AFP:

<span>Screenshot comparison of the falsely shared video (left) and Google Street View imagery from Dubai (right)</span>
Screenshot comparison of the falsely shared video (left) and Google Street View imagery from Dubai (right)

There is also no link between Shynkarev and Ukraine's current prosecutor-general, Andriy Kostin.

While a profile published on Ukrainian website LB.ua says Kostin has three children, including a son, an article written in August 2023 says Kostin's son is named Mychailo and is believed to live in New York (archived links here and here).

AFP has previously debunked other misinformation surrounding the war in Ukraine here.