Image shows memorial, not girls joining Ukraine military | Fact check

The claim: Image shows Ukrainian girls ‘recruited into the military’

A June 13 Facebook post (direct link, archive link) shows young girls looking down while wearing boots, camouflage pants and solemn facial expressions.

“Ukrainian girls, not even 18 years old, have been recruited into the military,” the post’s caption reads in part.

Similar versions of the claim were shared on Facebook more than 60 times in three days, according to social media analytics tool CrowdTangle, and circulated widely on Instagram and X, formerly Twitter.

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Our rating: False

The image shows cadets attending a memorial service, not girls recruited into Ukraine’s military. Ukrainians can't volunteer for military service until they turn 18, and women can't be drafted at all, according to an expert.

Image shows memorial service, not girls ‘recruited’ to military

Ukraine's military leaders say they need more soldiers in their war with Russia, and one potential way to solve that problem – by recruiting prisoners – was detailed in a May 31 Reuters report. The claim in the post appears to refer to another purported solution, with the use of the phrase "look at them!" strongly suggesting it shows some of the specific "girls" who were “recruited” into Ukraine's military.

But the claim in the post is false. The image shows cadets at a military institute attending a memorial service.

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The image was one of more than 20 photos in a gallery posted June 11 by the military institute of Taras Shevchenko National University, also known as Kyiv University.

Translated from Ukrainian, the caption of the gallery explains its images show a memorial for graduates who were killed. The ceremony included the leadership of the military institute along with chaplains, cadets and relatives, according to a June 11 report from Ukrainian media outlet Kyiv Vlada. The uniforms worn by the students bear the military institute’s logo on the left shirt sleeves.

More broadly, the post also wrongly claims girls “not even 18 years old” have been recruited into the military. Ukrainians must be 18 before they can voluntarily enlist, and there is no credible evidence that rule is not being followed, Ann Dailey, a geopolitical strategist at the RAND Corporation and an expert on military affairs in Russia and Europe, told USA TODAY in an email.

Women in Ukraine are not eligible for the military draft, Dailey said. Boys must enter the national conscription registry database when they turn 17, but the actual age of conscription is 25. It was lowered in April from 27.

The war in Ukraine has been a source of significant misinformation on social media. USA TODAY has debunked false claims that U.S. troops have been deployed to Ukraine and that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy bought a $20 million Florida mansion.

USA TODAY reached out to several social media users who shared the claim but did not immediately receive responses.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: False claim image shows girls joining Ukraine military | Fact check