Fact Check: Russia’s Putin Did NOT Release 500 Lions To Keep People Indoors Amid Coronavirus.

Did Russian President Vladimir Putin release 500 lions onto the streets of that country to keep people indoors amid the coronavirus outbreak? No, that’s not true: The screen grab of a news report claiming that Putin released lions is four years old and is from a movie shoot.

The claim appeared on Facebook as a post (archived here) where it was published by Da Boy Wonder on March 23, 2020, under the title “Russia On Some Shit LOL”. It opened:

“Russia released more than 500 lions on the streets to ensure that people are staying indoors during this pandemic outbreak.
Vladimir Putin released around 500 lions to make people stay indoors.”

Social media users saw this:

Put simply, this story is not true.

Followers quickly caught on, calling out the veracity of the photo. One poster wrote: “It was posted on the fake news!!!! This is not true, but funny as shit if they did 😂”

A reverse image search showed that the fake story stole a still of a lion on the street from the filming of a movie in Johannesburg, South Africa, in April 2016. Still, the story was going viral on Facebook as users circulated the screenshot that looked like a news report showing the lion and claiming Russia’s president had cut loose the big cats to keep people indoors to avoid infection amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Wealthy British businessman and reality TV star Lord Alan Sugar posted a tweet of the fake news screenshot, racking up 39,700 likes and 8,900 retweets.