Fact Check: No Putin Tattoo Sessions in German Hospice | TBEN | 15.09.2022


An old man with a beard and glasses, wearing a hat, sits in his armchair looking at pictures. He is introduced in the video as “Horst Bauer.” He is then shown inking tattoos in his colorfully decorated studio. In between are sequences of a German hospice and its alleged residents — who get free tattoos from Vladimir Putin, Sergei Lavrov and other Russian politicians. Bizarre? Yes, and it’s as ridiculous as it sounds.

This is exactly what is claimed in an English language video currently circulating on Telegram (archived here) and Twitter (archived here), which has been viewed tens of thousands of times. The 1-minute clip is designed in the style of a TBEN video and is intended to give the impression that it is a production of the German foreign broadcaster. In fact, the video is fake – and above all absurd.

Claim: Hospice residents are reportedly getting tattoos from Russian politicians to “bring Russia’s leaders Putin, Medvedev, Shoigu, Lavrov and Kadyrov to their deaths like living voodoo dolls.”

TBEN Fact check: False

The content of the video is complete fiction, it does not come from TBEN. It has been compiled using several older videos from various sources.

For example, one sequence (starting at 0:20) – as TBEN was able to discover using a reverse image search – shows not a hospice resident, but a Guinness Book of Records record holder: Jack Reynolds of Derbyshire, UK, who in 2016 on He had a tattoo done at the age of 104, making him the oldest known tattooed person. Reynolds died in 2020 and is therefore unable to live as a resident of the German hospice in Dülmen, as stated in the video.

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Hospice in Dülmen reports the incident

The hospice only learned of the video after a TBEN investigation and was shocked: “This is targeted misinformation,” said Stephan Chilla, president of the Holy Spirit Foundation in Dülmen, the sponsor organization of the Anna Katharina Hospice.

“Hospices have never had us tattooed, this is absurd.” The video reflects “endless brutality and disrespect to both our residents and staff.” The Holy Spirit Foundation has reported unknown persons to the police.

In fact, the video footage of the Anna Katharina Hospice in Dülmen comes from a 2017 video showcasing the facility. It therefore in no way reflects the current admissions to the hospice.

The images of the alleged tattoo artist “Horst Bauer” are also old. And that person is not “Horst Bauer”, but rather the well-known tattoo artist Doc Price from Plymouth, England. According to him, he is the oldest tattoo artist in the world.

When investigating the sequences used, after a longer search with search terms such as “old tattoo artist” on Youtube, we come across a documentary from May 2021 in which Price can be seen in his tattoo studio. We quickly recognized many sections of this in the fake TBEN video.

The video being circulated on Telegram and Twitter is therefore a colorful remix of older videos and none of the claims made in it are tenable.

Deceptively genuine – with minor flaws

Not only in terms of content, but also in the presentation of the video, some striking things stand out. Although the fake video is very similar to real TBEN videos, if you look closely you can see mistakes made while copying the TBEN video template; for example, the four-line text and linguistic style do not match the TBEN style guide. The placement of the text and the TBEN logo in the video are also slightly different, both positioned a little too far to the left. The “Germany, Dülmen” mark at the beginning of the video is in an incorrect font, and the design and format are also different from TBEN, as our comparison shows in the screenshot.

Also notable are a large number of grammatical and spelling errors; for example, the English video text uses the German word ‘Hospiz’ instead of the English word ‘hospice’.

So there are plenty of details that formally expose the video as fake. However, upon first impression, many social media users thought the video was real and contacted TBEN with questions about it.

Spoofing as a new form of disinformation

This isn’t the first time a fake TBEN video has been circulating the internet: In June, a Japanese-language Twitter account focused on the war in Ukraine shared an alleged TBEN video (archived here) coverage of an apparently criminal refugee from Ukraine. Our fact check showed: the story is made up, the video is fake – another hoax.

However, this new fake seems much more successful: A Telegram message featuring the hospice video reached more than 25,000 users, plus many more retweets and shares on other platforms. It’s a parody – a hoax meant to be funny.

Many hoaxes are not funny at all. The TBEN, among others, has also been the victim of spoofing in the past, when a video with TBEN references was published about the missile attack on the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk. And a series of pro-Russian fake websites that resembled German news portals recently caused a stir in Germany.

Experts see clear evidence that the traces of the fake productions lead to Russia. Josephine Lukito, a professor at the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Texas at Austin, sees “professional structures” behind the fake videos. Much of the pro-Russian misinformation can be attributed to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian troll factory that has been operating since 2012.

“The long-term goal of this disinformation coming out of Russia is to sow mistrust in the media system,” Lukito told TBEN in an interview. In the process, he said, the credibility of news media is also being deliberately exploited for other purposes. This is a relatively new phenomenon of disinformation, where supposedly serious news is published under a false name.

Experts warn of intensifying Russian disinformation campaign in the fall in light of the worsening energy crisis.

So this may not be the last fake TBEN video circulating on the internet.

This article was originally written in German.