Pictures presented by Washington and Kiev as evidence of Russia's involvement in Ukraine, and published on Monday by the New York Times, were unverified and in fact contradicted the claims they were to support.
The US State department acknowledged the error and the New York Times back-tracked on its Monday story, which claimed “photographs and descriptions from eastern Ukraine endorsed by the Obama administration … suggest that many of the green men are indeed Russian military and intelligence forces”.
The proof was this particular picture with an inscription “Group photograph taken in Russia”.
Freelance photographer Maxim Dondyuk took the photo.
“It was taken in Slavyansk [Ukraine],” he told NYT over the phone. “Nobody asked my permission to use it.”
The picture was amongst others Kiev gave the OSCE mission to Ukraine to ‘prove’ Russian involvement in the massive unrest gripping the Donetsk region.
The State Department repeated the claims, citing ‘confirmation’ of Moscow involvement.
“We see in the photos that have been again in international media, on Twitter, publicly available is that there are individuals who visibly appear to be tied to Russia. We’ve said that publicly a countless number of times,” Jen Psaki, State Dept spokeswoman said.
The New York Times eventually published a climbdown Wednesday - ‘Scrutiny Over Photos Said to Tie Russia Units to Ukraine’, where it admitted failing to properly verify the Kiev photo dossier.
The NYT also cited the State Dept’s Psaki admitting “the assertion that the photograph in the American briefing materials had been taken in Russia was incorrect”. She explained the picture was only part of a draft packet that wasn’t used by Kerry at the talks.
Psaki then claimed to have other evidence connecting “the Russians and the armed militants” in eastern Ukraine but would not provide details.