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Fact check: Photo of priests blessing Russian rocket is from 2015, doesn't show 'Satan' missile

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The claim: Russian Orthodox Church leaders blessed a rocket called 'Satan'

In the 20 years since Vladimir Putin came to power in Russia, the relationship between the military and the Russian Orthodox Church has grown closer, with  priests blessing everything from ballistic missiles to submarines.

A May 14 Facebook post, shared nearly 300 times, appears to show one such scenario, with priests blessing a rocket.

The caption of the Facebook post reads, "Russian Orthodox Church leaders blessing a rocket called Satan. It's real not Monty Python."

This iteration of the claim appears to originate from a May 13 tweet that included the photograph and accumulated more than 100,000 interactions. Many users presumed it showed an image from the present invasion of Ukraine.

One Twitter user wrote, "A real travesty of current situation in Russia."

But this photo is from 2015 and has nothing to do with the current conflict. And an expert told USA TODAY the image is not of the "Satan" missile.

USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the post for comment.

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The photo is from 2015

Residents walk with their bicycles in front of a damaged church, in Lukashivka, in northern Ukraine, Friday, April 22, 2022. A single metal cross remains inside the Orthodox church of shattered brick and blackened stone. Residents say Russian soldiers used the house of worship for storing ammunition, and Ukrainian forces shelled the building to make the Russians leave. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) ORG XMIT: XPG101
Residents walk with their bicycles in front of a damaged church, in Lukashivka, in northern Ukraine, Friday, April 22, 2022. A single metal cross remains inside the Orthodox church of shattered brick and blackened stone. Residents say Russian soldiers used the house of worship for storing ammunition, and Ukrainian forces shelled the building to make the Russians leave. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) ORG XMIT: XPG101

The photo that’s been shared on Twitter and Facebook is not, as users have suggested, from the current Ukrainian conflict.

It is part of a series of photos taken in Khodynka field, northwest of Moscow, on May 6, 2015.

According to the Moscow City News Agency, the image shows a ritual blessing of the participants in the Victory Parade and the consecration of launches on the Khodynka field.

The Victory Parade is the country's annual marking of the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

The photo is not of the 'Satan' rocket

The Facebook post claims the photo is of the rocket “Satan,” but it's not, according to Mariana Budjeryn, research associate at the Project on Managing the Atom at the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Budjeryn said the missile in the photo is likely a SS-27 "Yars."

"Confusing the two is not a common mistake for anyone who knows anything about Soviet/Russian missiles," she told USA TODAY.

"Satan," or SS-18, is a Soviet-era, silo-based, liquid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile that is still deployed in Russia but is being phased out, according to Budjeryn.

The SS-27, or "Yars," is a solid-fuel mobile intercontinental ballistic missile that is not deployed in a stationary silo but on a transporter-erector-launcher, a large truck that Budjeryn said can be seen in the picture.

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Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Russian Orthodox Church leaders blessed a rocket called "Satan. While the photo does show Russian Orthodox leaders blessing military equipment, it is not from the current conflict in Ukraine, as some users have suggested. It is also not a photo of the missile "Satan," an expert confirmed.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Photo of priests blessing Russian rocket is from 2015