False: Photo of Chinese and Russian soldiers taken in 2014 in Jordan, not Ukraine in 2022
On July 31 a tweet claimed the Chinese Communist Party has sent special forces as volunteers to join the Russian Army in the war against Ukraine, with a photo of two soldiers holding each other’s respective country flags.
This content was also translated and shared in Japanese and Polish. Another tweet in English with the same image, on the other hand, claimed China has sent active duty soldiers to train with the Russian military in Syria. Together, they have over 780 likes and 345 retweets at the time of writing.
However, the photo does not show what these posts claim.
Through reverse image search, we found a fact-check on the same claim by the Chinese media outlet the Paper, which identifies the Chinese soldier in the photo as Chen Yuhao, the acting captain of a special warfare training brigade of the Armed Police Force.
The watermark on his photo in the article reads “military.cnr.cn” — CNR stands for China National Radio, a state-controlled media. Annie Lab learned through the keyword “陈玉浩” (Chen Yuhao) that the photo is associated with an article posted in 2019.
Although the CNR report was no longer available on its website, we found it on Sohu. (Note: Annie Lab later found the original article from the mobile version of the CNR website.) It was a feature article chronicling Chen’s military career. The image of the two soldiers has the caption “约旦比武，陈玉浩与俄罗斯参赛队员合影” (a photo with a fellow Russian participant in the Jordan contest).
The “contest” here is known as the Annual Warrior Competition, which is held by the Jordanian Armed Forces. Members of Special Operations Forces and Law Enforcement units from different parts of the world undergo training in advanced combat-training facilities, according to the official website. It is held in Amman every year.
Chen’s Baidu profile mentions his participation in the competition in 2016 and 2018. We also found a transcribed interview on Toutiao published by the People’s Liberation Army News Media Center. Among other things, he talked about representing China at the annual game in 2014 as a member of the Snow Leopard Unit of the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force and defending their 2013 championship.
While Annie Lab can confirm that the photo in the tweets was taken during the 2014 Warrior competition held in Jordan, we could not verify whether or not the CCP has sent special forces to support the Russian military in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war or the conflict in Syria.
We are still trying to find out the identity of the Russian soldier in the image. Although the Paper reported his name is Sergey Efimov, a former member of Russia’s Special Rapid Response Unit, it was solely based on a search result through a face-recognition service, which is not always accurate.
So far, Annie Lab could not find any evidence to confirm who he is, but we will update this story once we are certain.