Doctored picture of politician of ‘Grape’ fame with Russia’s Putin goes viral again

Former senator Sehar Kamran is not currently in Russia

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Claim: A photo shows former Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) senator Sehar Kamran alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Fact: Kamran is not currently in Russia. While Kamran did take a selfie with Putin in 2018, a doctored photo of the two is currently going viral.

On 23 February 2022, Twitter user @Zakr1a shared a photo of Sehar Kamran, a politician associated with the Sindh-based PPP and a senator from 2012 to 2018, posing with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kamran can be seen wearing a dupatta with images of the Pakistani flag imprinted on it, a badge of the Pakistani flag, and a lanyard that reads, “Eurasian Women’s Forum.”

The photo appears to be doing the rounds in connection with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s 23 February 2022 meeting with Putin in Moscow. Khan’s visit — which was also attended by federal ministers Asad Umar, Hammad Azhar, and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, as well as National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf — came as the Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Fact or fiction?

Soch Fact Check used Google Reverse Image Search to ascertain when the photo was taken. We found posts on Kamran’s verified Twitter account and Facebook page, confirming that she was in Russia in the September-October 2018 period for a Eurasian Women’s Forum (EAWF) meeting. Kamran had also shared a video of her meeting Putin during the event on her Twitter account.

Some accounts apparently linked to the PPP shared Kamran’s selfies and photos from the 2018 event on social media, including here, here, here, and here.

In the three selfies with Putin that Kamran uploaded to Facebook, the politician has her head tilted upwards as she looks into the camera, while Putin smiles by her side.

However, the image that is currently going viral on social media shows the former senator standing side by side with the Russian president in a conventional picture, not a selfie. Kamran also shared that image on her Facebook page in 2018.

Soch Fact Check used three tools — Forensically, FotoForensics, and ImageForensic, all of which are available online for free — and carefully compared the viral image with a photograph that shows Kamran standing alongside Russian Federation Senator Galina Karelova.

The first set of red boxes shows that the brightness and pixelation of the photograph on the right is similar to the brightness and pixelation of Kamran in her picture with Putin; the second set of boxes indicates that the clarity of Kamran and Karelova is similar to that of Kamran in her picture with Putin, who by contrast appears less clear in terms of pixels; the last set of boxes below shows that when the Putin-Kamran image is dulled, only Karman is distinctly visible.

The analysis reveals that the pixelation of Kamran in the picture with Putin is different from the Russian president and she appears to be brighter and clearer. The pixelation in the former senator’s picture with Karelova is the same, which means that it has not been doctored.

It appears that the picture of Kamran with Putin was doctored using a cut-out of Kamran from her picture with Karelova. In both the picture with Putin and the picture with Karelova, Kamran looks identical. Below, we have circled three similarities in the images and the arrows indicate how the light on the heads of Putin and Kamran appears from different angles.

That the image in question in fact consists of two different images put together is also clear from the top-right side of the photo where the background is smudged together.

Soch Fact Check, therefore, concludes that the former senator did take selfies with the Russian president in 2018 but the picture that allegedly shows them both standing side by side has been doctored using Kamran’s photo with Karelova. Additionally, the present resurfacing of the photo is misleading because the former senator is currently in Islamabad, not Moscow. 

Virality

Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis using the phrase “sehar kamran putin” for the past seven-day period and found over 5,000 interactions across 10 posts on Facebook.

The most popular Facebook post with the doctored picture was shared over 300 times and received more than 3,000 reactions. Another one, shared by Facebook page ‘Indians on Internet’, received over 60 reactions. A third post was captioned, “The reason behind the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.”

The former senator became the subject of memes online after a video of her encouraging students during an Independence Day event at a school in Saudi Arabia went viral. In the clip, she can be heard enthusiastically saying the word ‘Great’ in a way that sounded like ‘Grape’, spurring a series of memes linking the former senator to the grape emoji.

Kamran herself shared the doctored image to her verified Facebook account in 2018. The post has now been shared more than 16,000 times.

Twitter user @Zakr1a’s post with the image has been retweeted more than 500 times and received over 4,200 likes.

Conclusion: The viral picture of Sehar Kamran is from 2018 when she met Putin. The picture was doctored in 2018 and Kamran even shared it on her verified Facebook page at the time. The image is currently going viral again but Kamran is not in Russia at the moment.

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