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13 Mar, 2022 17:57

Ukraine donation by Oscar-winning actor debunked by media as fake

Hollywood star hasn’t donated $10 million to Ukraine, despite what news reports and internet posts allege
Ukraine donation by Oscar-winning actor debunked by media as fake

Despite making international news and spreading like wildfire on social media, a story alleging that Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio had donated $10 million to Ukraine and its armed forces has been proven false. The star did, however, donate to several humanitarian groups working in the war-torn country.

According to a story that originated on GSA News – an obscure Guyanese outlet – earlier this month, DiCaprio made the multimillion dollar donation “to support the war efforts as well as humanitarian efforts within the country” on account of his supposed family ties to Ukraine through his maternal grandmother.

The story, dated March 5, cited “sources inside Ukraine today.”

It quickly spread on social media, and was echoed by Ukrinform, the Ukrainian state news agency. Ukrinform explicitly said that DiCaprio had donated “to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” 

However, the story has since been proven false. Some articles claimed that DiCaprio’s donation was handled by the International Visegrad Fund, a scholarship and grant foundation funded by the governments of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. However, the Visegrad Fund told CNN on Wednesday that no such donation had been made.

A source “close to” DiCaprio also told CNN that the actor hadn’t handed the Ukrainian military any money, but that he had given undisclosed sums to CARE, the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and the UN's refugee agency. The source also said that DiCaprio had no family ties to Ukraine.

GSA News issued an update to its story on Saturday, stating that the site “would like to retract our story because it could not be verified.” GSA News founder Patrick Carpen told CNN that his initial source had been “a Facebook post from a Ukrainian woman whose posts about the war with Russia have generally been accurate.”

The story is one of several false or unverified stories to emanate from Ukraine since the start of the Russian offensive. Some of the most notable examples have been the multiple tellings and retellings of the ‘Ghost of Kiev’ tale, referring to a Ukrainian fighter pilot who supposedly scored a number of air-to-air kills against Russian jets. While the story is still being shared by pro-Ukrainian outlets like the Kyiv Post and a fake post identifying the pilot fooled a US Congressman, no proof of the Ghost’s existence has been put forward, and video footage that purportedly showed his exploits was later found to have been taken from a video game.

Similarly, a story that 13 Ukrainian border guards told a Russian warship to “go f**k” itself before refusing to surrender and ending up killed in a firefight ended up making international news before it was discovered that the guards surrendered and were taken prisoner by the Russians. Before the story was debunked, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had posthumously awarded the guards the title “Hero of Ukraine.”