2020 photo from Ukraine shared as site of Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima's plane crash

By: Tahil Ali
June 13 2024

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2020 photo from Ukraine shared as site of Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima's plane crash

Screenshot of the viral photo shared on X which claims to depict the crash site where Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima's plane went down. (Source: X/Modified by Logically Facts)

Fact-Check

The Verdict False

This image from September 2020 depicts a plane crash in Ukraine, not the June 11, 2024, crash involving Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima.

Claim ID 2534b9fc

What is the claim?

Several social media users on X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook are circulating a photo of plane wreckage, claiming it to be from the site of Malawi's Vice President Saulos Chilima's recent plane crash. President Lazarus Chakwera announced on June 11 that Chilima, former First Lady Shanil Dzimbiri, and seven others died in a military plane crash.

One such user posted the viral photo on X (archived here) with the caption: "BREAKING NEWS: Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima and 9 others confirmed dead in a plane crash. The plane has been found and all 10 on board are dead! Deepest condolences to the Government of Malawi, VP Chilima family (VP and his wife were on board) and the families of the VP aides and crew. May their soul rest in peace (sic)." Archived versions of similar posts can be found here, here, and here.

Screenshots of social media users sharing the photo on X. (Source: X/Modified by Logically Facts)

However, we have determined that the photo was taken in September 2020 in Chuguev, Kharkiv region of Ukraine, and is unrelated to the recent plane crash involving Malawi Vice President Chilima.

What are the facts?

Upon conducting a reverse image search, we located the same image published on the website of Xinhua News Agency, a state-owned Chinese news outlet, on September 26, 2020. The photo was credited to Ukrainian photojournalist Sergey Starostenko, accompanying a report describing it as the 'crash site of an An-26 military aircraft in Chuguev, Kharkiv region, Ukraine,' taken on September 26, 2020.

Screenshot of the Xinhua News Agency report about the crash that occurred near Kharkiv, Ukraine, in 2020 (Source: Xinhua News Agency/Modified by Logically Facts)

According to news reports, the incident occurred when a military Antonov An-26 aircraft experienced an engine failure on its left side and crashed near a highway in Chuguev, Kharkiv region of Ukraine. The aircraft was conducting a training flight at the time, resulting in the loss of at least 25 lives, including crew members, cadets, and officers of the Kharkiv University of the Air Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Additionally, we found a similar image on Alamy, a stock photography agency, credited to 'Sergey Starostenko/Xinhua news agency.' The caption again identifies the photo as from the plane crash in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on September 26, 2020.

Actual photo of Malawi plane wreckage

Following the crash, Malawi President Chakwera confirmed on June 11 that Chilima's plane was found in Chikangawa forest, with all passengers on board confirmed to be dead. Several news reports (archived here) have also published images of the actual crash site.

We were able to verify images of the aircraft displaying registration number MAF-T03 on its tail, consistent with the tail number reported during President Chakwera's national address (archived here) about the crash (timestamp: 0:10) on June 11.

A screenshot of a news report shows the actual crash site of Chilima’s aircraft. (Source: CNN/Malawi State TV/Modified by Logically Facts)

The verdict

The viral image does not depict the wreckage from Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima’s recent plane crash. Instead, it is a photograph from a plane crash in Chuguev, Kharkiv region of Ukraine, taken on September 26, 2020.

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