On July 8, a photo taken during the G20 meeting in Hamburg started circulating online showing several world leaders, including President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, huddled around Vladimir Putin. Standing behind the group, you can see German Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a ribbon of St. George — a patriotic Russian military symbol.
The image spread particularly far and fast after pro-Kremlin public figures like writer Ilias Merkuri and television host Vladimir Solovyov shared it on Twitter.
The photograph, however, is fake. In reality, Trump and Erdoğan were huddled around an empty chair and Merkel wasn’t wearing a St. George’s ribbon.
Solovyov quickly deleted his tweet, claiming that he understood from the start that it was a gag. “It was a funny joke,” he explained, “but I decided to delete it because of all the fools [who didn’t get it].”
Merkuri, who regularly posts satirical content online, says he also knew the image was fake, though he hasn’t deleted his original tweet.
The confusion has sparked a new meme in Russia, where Internet users have shared doctored versions of the real G20 photo, uploading pictures with all kinds of substitutes for the empty chair.