A viral video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrongly implies that he demanded Americans send their sons and daughters to fight in the war in Ukraine.
The out-of-context, 19-second video has been viewed millions of times on Twitter, and a right-wing US politician repeated the debunked narrative this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual Republican gathering.
The clip shows Zelensky speaking at a news conference last week as an interpreter translates his words into English: “The US will have to send their sons and daughters, exactly the same way as we are sending, their sons and daughters to war. And they will have to fight, because it’s NATO that we’re talking about. And they will be dying, God forbid, because it’s a horrible thing,” the Ukrainian leader says.
Critics of US military and financial support for Ukraine pounced on the remarks, claiming Zelensky was demanding the US send its young people to defend Ukraine from Russia’s ongoing invasion.
Here’s the key context: Zelensky was not saying Americans will have to fight or die in Ukraine. Rather, he predicted that if Ukraine loses the war against Russia, Moscow will proceed to enter NATO-member countries in the Baltics (a region made up of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia), which the US will have to send troops to defend.
Under the treaty that governs NATO, an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. Ukraine is not a NATO member.
In leaving out the context that Zelensky was discussing this hypothetical situation, which he used to support his argument for sustained US aid in Ukraine’s defense, posts featuring the shortened clip twisted his meaning.
Since going viral, it has been fact-checked by CNN, Reuters and BBC journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh, among others.
Yet the claims are still circulating: While some elected officials have removed posts about the video after learning it was taken out of context, other voices in US politics have amplified the falsehoods.
At CPAC on Friday, GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said the Republican Party has a duty to protect children. Listing supposed threats to kids, she referenced “Zelensky saying he wants our sons and daughters to go die in Ukraine.”
Later in her speech, she said, “I will look at a camera and directly tell Zelensky: You’d better leave your hands off of our sons and daughters, because they’re not dying over there.”