An old photo of an oil refinery on fire is being misattributed to a recent blaze at a Russian factory

By: Sam Doak
May 15 2023

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An old photo of an oil refinery on fire is being misattributed to a recent blaze at a Russian factory


The Verdict Misleading

While this fire did occur, the photograph being shared was taken in 2018 and shows a seperate incident.

Claim ID 657eac6b


In May 2023, an image of a fire behind a group of multi-story buildings circulated widely on social media, with users claiming that it shows a fire at a Russian factory. One Twitter user who posted this image captioned it, “The Chernyshev factory in Moscow, which produces engines for MiG-29 fighter jets, has been on fire since this morning,” garnering more than 1,800 retweets and 16,000 likes.  

This image has been shared widely on Facebook and Twitter, with users speculating how the event could affect the Russian war effort. Despite the interest this story has attracted, however, the photograph being shared predates the Russia-Ukraine war. 

In Fact

A reverse image search reveals that the image in question shows a fire at a Moscow oil refinery in 2018. Reporting on this event at the time, the Russian news outlet Business Petersberg stated that the incident occurred due to a “high-temperature oil refining unit” catching fire. 

While the photograph being shared does not show a fire at a Russian facility engaged in the manufacturing of aircraft parts, this event did occur. According to Russian news sources, a fire broke out in a Moscow factory complex on May 12, 2023. In its coverage of this incident, the Russian Federal News Agency stated, “On the territory of the machine-building plant named after V.V. Chernyshev there was a fire. Three people were injured in the incident. The fire occurred in an administrative building on Vishnevaya Street.” 

The agency provided further detail on the facility's output, stating “It specializes in the manufacture of engines for fighters. To date, the company is part of the Rostec State Corporation and produces engines for MiG-29 and MiG-35 aircraft.”

In the year since Russia invaded Ukraine, there has been mounting speculation about fires that have purportedly been affecting sensitive sites in the country with increasing frequency. Whether or not they are being started intentionally, there is evidence that major fires have become more common in Russia over this period. Earlier this year, the OSINT agency Molfar published a report stating that in the first quarter of 2023, 212 were reported. This is more than half the number of major fires recorded in Russia throughout the entirety of 2022. 

The Verdict

The image being shared does not show a fire at a Russian factory involved in the production of fighter jet parts. While this event did take place on May 12, 2023, the photograph shows a fire that occurred in 2018 at a Moscow oil refinery. This claim has therefore been marked as misleading. 

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We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before