Russia’s gains in the war have slowed even further in recent months as Putin’s troops retreat to captured territory in eastern Ukraine amid a persistent counteroffensive by forces from Kyiv.
Failing to garner tangible support around the world, even from allies or neutrals, Putin is also feeling the heat at home. This week, the Russian president was accused of “hiding” from the mothers and wives of Russian soldiers, amid growing civilian opposition.
However, a photo posted to social media this week appears to show a tandem of new superstar “fighters” in Post Malone and YouTuber Garand Thumb, with the caption claiming a link between the American celebrities and the Russian paramilitary group Wagner.
A Tweeterposted November 23, 2022, claimed a photo captured “Some of the earliest images we have of Frontline Wagner fighters who have been released from prison, note the tattoos on the face of the man on the right indicating that he spent time in a Far Eastern prison in Siberia.”
In October 2022, the Wagner Group reportedly recruited thousands from prisons to join their team. Olga Romanova, head of the prisoner advocacy group Russia Behind Bars, told Russian media Agentstvo via Telegram that more than 20,000 Russian prisoners had been sent to fight Ukraine.
The news came amid Russia’s continued struggles to bring fresh troops to the front lines after nearly nine months of conflict.
However, the photo shared on Twitter was taken out of context, possibly as a joke. He does not represent Wagner’s fighters, and there is no evidence that he puts Post Malone in the front line alongside Russian mercenaries.
The photo is a press photo of Post Malone with YouTuber Garand Thumb (real name Michael Jones), a US Air Force veteran who has been posting videos about guns and military culture since May 2006.
The photo was posted on Garand Thumb’s Twitter on November 22, 2022, with the caption “Post Thumb”.
An Instagram post of the same image, on Garand Thumb’s account, received more than 186,000 likes in less than 24 hours.
Garand Thumb says Pleasemynews that “It’s actually just a picture of me and Post Malone at a training event we held for him in the States.”
This narrative also fits Post Malone’s touring schedule. The rapper has been touring stadiums across the United States since August 2022; its final performance was at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, California on November 16, 2022.
He is expected to begin his international tour in December this year, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, according to his website.
Post Malone supported pro-Ukrainian causes during the war, including hosting a charity Twitch stream for Project HOPE, which is described as a “global health and disaster relief organization saving the lives of children and families. , providing aid to Ukraine, combating COVID-19, & responding to global health crises and natural disasters.”
The stream raised over $58,000, $23,000 more than its goal.
Post Malone also paid tribute to Ukraine during a concert earlier this year.
He said: “So much love for Ukraine, so much love for everyone struggling and so much for everyone, literally f****** everyone.”
Although the news about the rapper is fake, other celebrities have joined the Ukrainian military effort, including Odessa Oblast native boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko.