But the Canadian volunteer’s vivid descriptions of front line action have been exposed as a fabrication by internet sleuths identifying his weapons as nothing more than mock air guns.
The story of “Canadian Ukrainian Volunteer” highlights the information war being fought on social media channels and how online amateur detectives caught a fraud who they said was endangering lives.
At the height of his fame, Canadian Ukrainian Volunteer was publishing dozens of tweets a day to his 120,000 followers. They were typically florid and urgent, cut through with a “boy’s own adventure” style.
In one memorable series of Tweets from April, Canadian Ukrainian Volunteer boasted that he had infiltrated Russian-occupied Kherson in south Ukraine on a bicycle disguised as a Russian soldier.
“Our contact had warned us to remain in the shadows and not to expose ourselves to spying eyes,” he wrote. “A window opening above us or a flicker of someone’s cigarette from a balcony, a barking dog in the distance, all were enough for us to cling to the walls in the darkness and hold our breath.”
But poring over his social media posts, online conflict experts identified a string of clues, leading to a startling discovery about the alleged fighter’s real location.
One social media user identified his rifle was a fake by carefully comparing the weapon to replicas online.
We knew this day would come, @CanadianUkrain1’s big reveal...his battle rifle. TLDR Yes, it’s all airsoft gear.⁰⁰Let’s take a look at his loadout, piece-by-piece. Thread incoming!🧵 pic.twitter.com/NGwaQ7DuMt
— Kung Flu Panda (@con_punk) July 1, 2022
Aric Toler, director of training at the open-source investigations group Bellingcat, said that photos of his dented body armour had also been stolen.
“The original photo was from Ukrainian police of someone illegally selling military equipment on Telegram,” he said, posting photos of the classified ad.
Twitter users who have followed the barely believable exploits of Canadian Ukrainian Volunteer continued to chip away at the claims he made online.
In this new photo, we get a good look at the chin strap and fastener (Photo 1.) It's a plastic side-release buckle. An authentic Mk7 does not utilize a plastic buckle. Rather, it has a loop and button (Photo 2.) Only the airsoft replica utilizes a plastic buckle (Photo 3.) Fake. pic.twitter.com/oidkuhgpBY
— Kung Flu Panda (@con_punk) June 27, 2022
Another said that a claim by Canadian Ukrainian Volunteer that he cut his body armour for improved “mobility in exchange for reduced protection” was nonsense.
Finally, to prove their theory, one open-source intelligence expert, going by the name NexusIntel, concocted a plan to expose the true location of the famed fighter.
I decided to track his location. I first sourced a web article talking about Canadian volunteers in Canada, I used that to create a grabify link which I then masked through a link shortener and sent to him claiming the article mentioned him and I congratulated him⬇️🧵via PM pic.twitter.com/wctXNM33co
— NexusIntel (@NexusIntel1) June 12, 2022
To prove that Canadian Ukrainian Volunteer was a fraud, NexusIntel said that he sent him a news story about other Canadian volunteers fighting in Ukraine.
“This had to be done by a private message as the link would capture the IP (address) of anyone who clicked on it,” NexusItnel said. “He clicked twice and then blocked me.”
And this, NexusIntel said, showed that Canadian Ukrainian Volunteer was based in Ontario, Canada and not Ukraine.
“The only truthful thing that he ever said was that he was Canadian, in my opinion,” he said.
This revelation triggered a more desperate Canadian Ukrainian Volunteer into uploading photos of his kit, which he had previously avoided, to try to prove that he was real and this backfired when people called out his rifle, helmet and magazines as replicas. A couple of days later, the Twitter account of Canadian Ukrainian Volunteer was closed.
One Twitter user announced the news to his 600,00 followers: