When photos began to circulate online of Russian cosmonauts boarding the International Space Station (ISS), media outlets online quickly spread the hoax that the group had deliberately chosen to wear yellow and blue flight suits in solidarity with Ukraine by wearing the country's national colors.
But what many had hoped was an act of heroic defiance against Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime turned out to be an unrelated coincidence.
Veteran cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, the mission commander for the Russian team aboard the ISS, quickly debunked the story, Reuters reported. In a news conference from the space station, he said the suits had been created six months ago, predating Russia's military aggression in Ukraine. Moreover, Artemyev expressed solidarity with his country, voicing no sympathy for Ukraine.
"Color is just color," Artemyev said. "It has nothing to do with Ukraine. In these days, even though we are in space, we are together with our president and people!"
He explained that the team had selected its colors based off of the team's common alma mater—a college whose primary colors also used yellow and blue. "Every crew picks a color that looks different. It was our turn to pick a color," he said.
"Sometimes yellow is just yellow," Roscosmos's press service said on its Telegram channel. "To see the Ukrainian flag everywhere and in everything is crazy."
The International Space Station comprises experts from the United States, Russia, and other countries participating in the multinational collaborative project.
NASA officials have said that US and Russian crew members are aware of the situation in Ukraine but that work has not been affected by geopolitical tensions.
This isn't the first time corporate media outlets have leaped to conclusions to accentuate what would otherwise be an entertaining story.
Reports from earlier in the conflict, for instance, had claimed that several Ukrainian soldiers had defiantly told off a Russian warship before heroically giving up their lives in defense of Snake Island, off the coast of Ukraine. Evidence later emerged that Russian forces had only captured the soldiers.
The "Ghost of Kyiv" similarly became an overnight sensation after reports that a lone pilot had single-handedly downed six Russian jets went viral. The original post, depicting a man sitting in a Mig-29, has since been traced back to American comedian Sam Hyde, the subject of a long-lasting meme used to troll. Footage of the fighter pilot was also later confirmed to be taken from a PC combat simulator.
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