Fakes related to the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine never end. A photo of an alleged flight board at the airport in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is currently circulating.

Claim: A flight board at Belgrade International Airport shows December 14 departures to “Kyiv Russia” and “Kosovo Serbia,” claims this viral post on Telegram, for example.

DW fact check: Wrong

The alleged photo has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on social media but is clearly a fake, our research shows. Of course, Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, is not a Russian city and has not been occupied by Russia in the current war.

The alleged flight to “Kosovo Serbia” also seems like a deliberate provocation, since the status of Kosovo under international law is disputed. Although the Kosovan parliament declared independence in 2008, this is not recognized by Serbia, Russia and China, for example, and five EU countries. In addition, Kosovo is not a city – and on flight boards there is usually an arrival city.

If you take a closer look at the picture, you will notice that it must be a fake. In the left column, for example, the alleged flights to Kyiv and Kosovo show country flags instead of airline logos, as do the other flights. In addition, no departure gate is given and in the “Remarks” on the flight there are exclamation marks instead of a flight status such as “Check-in” or “On Time”.

The flight numbers also indicate a fake. A flight number identifies a specific flight of a specific airline. That is, the letters stand for the airline, and the numbers indicate information about the flight with the place of departure, time and destination.

The flight to Kyiv, for example, is assigned the flight number JU 600 in the widespread image. Our research on the website myflightright.com, on which flights can also be tracked later, shows that this flight number identifies an Air Serbia flight from Belgrade to Vienna. When asked by DW, an Air Serbia spokesman confirmed that flight JU600 is the Belgrade-Vienna connection and that Air Serbia does not fly to Kyiv. In addition, the scheduled departure time on December 14 was 7:45 a.m. and not 8:10 a.m., as can be read in the photo that was distributed.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, air traffic to and from all Ukrainian airports, including Kiev’s airport, has been halted for security reasons. According to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the regulation to close the airspace over Ukraine is currently valid until March 31, 2023. Accordingly, there can be no flights from Belgrade to Kyiv.

Scoreboards at Belgrade Airport look different

The alleged flight to Kosovo is also false. According to “My Flight Right”, flight number W6 4051 denotes a WizzAir flight from Belgrade to Mulhouse. A confirmation from WizzAir on DW request is still pending.

For this flight, the alleged departure time of 8:10 a.m. is at least correct, but if you research the other flights on the board, the times often do not match the real departure times on December 14th. This indicates that the manipulated original photo can also be an old photo from a few years ago.

When asked by DW, Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade wrote that the signs were not signs from the airport. The press team sent us photos of the current flight display boards as proof. You can see that the current flight boards displayed on more modern screens have a different design. The “Vinci Airports” logo can also be seen in the upper right corner of the screens. Vinci Airports is a private airport operator that also operates Belgrade Airport.

An image analysis also indicates a forgery

To verify the authenticity of the photo, we also uploaded the image to a reverse image search. Above that, for example, you can find an image of the flight table in a higher resolution that shows a little more than just the screen. In the lower right corner of the picture you can see the incomplete copyright “airlines-infor”. This probably leads to the Russian website airlines-inform.ru, which claims to contain more than 3,000 pictures of the interiors of airports worldwide and which may have served as the source of the picture. The alleged copyright could also have been added by another person. A DW query to the operators of the website remained unanswered at the time of publication.

While a forensic examination of the image reveals no clear abnormalities, this is not uncommon when an image is photographed multiple times or copied via screenshot. However, when enlarging the image, the DW fact check team was able to find at least one indication of manual image processing: In the first line of the information board, there is a blurred spot in the blue between the Russian flag and the time, which slightly obscures the latter.

Conclusion: The circulating image is a fake and does not prove that there were flights from Belgrade to Kyiv or Kosovo on December 14, 2022. In addition, this is apparently a provocation, since Kyiv is wrongly assigned to Russia and Kosovo is given as a city of Serbia. This is also wrong, even if there are states that have not recognized Kosovo as independent.

Author: Kathrin Wesolowski, Tetyana Klug

The original of this post “Is an airport announcing flights to “Russian Kyiv” and “Serbian Kosovo”?” comes from Deutsche Welle.