FAKE: Ukrainian refugees burned down a house in Germany

FAKE: Ukrainian refugees burned down a house in Germany

31 May 2022

Verification within Meta’s Third-Party Fact-Checking Program

The alleged plot of the German publication Bild about how Ukrainian refugees burned down a house in Wulfen, Germany, is being spread on social networks. Other publications refer to the text publication on the Bild website. Refugees from Ukraine apparently tried to burn the flag of the russian federation, but the fire spread to the walls. Moreover, the story has several contradictory interpretations at the same time. Some publications say that the house belonged to a man and he left it to the refugees. And in the video, the owner, a woman named Natalie Michalski, is crying behind the burnt-out apartment.

In fact, it is a fake: Bild did not publish a story or an article about the fact that refugees from Ukraine started a fire in a German house. And the fake story was edited from a video published back in 2013 and a fragment of a real Bild story from 2021.

Side panels Screenshot of a fake Facebook post 

In May 2022, russian mass media, Telegram channels and social media users began to spread the story of Bild, which first shows how a russian flag is being burned in a room with the help of a Tesla coil, then how the entire house is burning from the outside, and finally an interview on to whom the owner of the destroyed house is crying.

The “marek415” watermark is visible in the far-right corner of the Tesla coil video. This fake was also refuted by independent foreign fact-checkers from AFP. They turned to an Instagram user with this nickname, who turned out to be Marek Novotny, a student at the Prague Technical University. In a comment to AFP, he confirmed that the video was his, but he has already removed it from his page to prevent it from being used in similar fakes.

Stills from a fake video showing that the shot with a Tesla coil taken from the account “marek415”

A reverse image search on Google Images revealed that a video of the house allegedly burning from the outside was posted on YouTube back in 2013. It shows a fire in the German Waluf. In the fake plot, they simply used an excerpt of this video. 

A freeze frame from a fake video

A freeze frame from a video, published in 2013

Bild did run a story of a woman named Natalie Michalski in January 2021. The caption to it states that it is footage from a house fire in the town of Osterholz-Scharmbeck.

A freeze frame from a fake video in which credits about a fire started by Ukrainian refugees were superimposed over an excerpt of a genuine Bild story

A still from Bild’s original story about the fire in Osterholz-Scharmbeck, January 31, 2021

So, Bild’s story about the fire started by Ukrainian refugees is a montage of video clips from different years.

Previously, a screenshot of an alleged publication on the Bild website with the headline: “Ukrainian refugees wanted to burn the russian flag and as a result set fire to the house in which they were staying” was shared on social networks.

A fake screenshot allegedly from the Bild website

AFP has reached out to the police officer at the Dessau-Rosslau station responsible for Anhalt-Bitterfeld, the police station under whose jurisdiction the town of Wulfen falls. The officer stated that he was not aware of any fires caused by Ukrainian refugees.


The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations