Fake: army surplus store sells volunteer-сrafted trench candles
Once again, a case of betrayal; once again, stories of volunteer-crafted trench candles allegedly being sold in army surplus stores. We had previously debunked this falsehood earlier in the year. At that time, a video circulated widely featuring a voiceover claiming that trench candles, crafted by child volunteers, were available for purchase at an army surplus store in Kharkiv. TikTok user Gennadiy Nemoi says the following: “This is how we can be victorious. As far as I understand, trench candles, priced at 250 hryvnias, made by children and ordinary people, are being sold in an army surplus store in Kharkiv.”
Nemoi failed to provide any evidence. One of our primary complaints was that he failed to identify the specific store in question.
Well, it seems that he took note of our criticism. He superimposed the same voiceover onto an image of the facade of one of the Frontman stores, which specializes in military uniforms, footwear, and equipment. This change didn’t lend any credibility to his claims; instead, it inadvertently facilitated our debunking process.
So, let me explain in simple terms what is actually happening here.
There does indeed exist a store that matches the description. It’s a nationwide chain with locations in Kyiv, Odesa, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, and, as Gennadiy mentioned, even in Kharkiv.
During the previous incident, Gennadiy had at least presented a video featuring candles with price tags. However, this time, he fails to show even such images. Similar to his previous approach, he neglects to mention whether he reached out to the store’s management for clarification or if he reported the matter to the police.
Consequently, we contacted the owners of the Frontman chain, and it was they who furnished us with all the fore-mentioned details.
The owners of the Frontman chain perceive both the first and second videos as fabricated and paid for. They have no idea of the origin of the candles with price tags found on their store shelves. Their only explanation is that someone deliberately planted them there in order to create these videos.
“Following the posting of the video, the police even visited our store, conducting interviews and searching the premises. However, as expected, they found nothing. If you examine this user’s account, it becomes clear that its sole purpose was to tarnish our store’s reputation. Out of the three videos on the channel, two are totally focused on us.” says Yuriy, one of the co-owners of the chain.
Yuriy is uncertain about the people behind these incidents. He speculates that it could either be rival businesses or simply ill-minded persons aiming to instill mistrust towards volunteer movements in Ukrainian society.
While candles are indeed present on the store shelves, they aren’t the alleged trench candles but rather gel candles specifically produced for sale. As for the paraffin candles, entrepreneurs financed the materials required to produce 500 “trench” candles. These candles were commissioned for the volunteers they collaborate with. 200 of them were dispatched to the Bakhmut sector, and an equal number were sent to Kherson Region.
We reached out to the volunteers affiliated with the Lepka charity foundation, as mentioned by Yuriy, and they verified that they were indeed involved in creating candles for the Frontman network. Their Facebook page features numerous photo reports showcasing the work they have done.
However, it should be noted that the candle production wasn’t carried out on behalf of the foundation; rather, it was a personal initiative undertaken by the employees themselves. “The guys make candles for many people. They don’t sell them, but they always request paraffin, jars, and paper from everyone. Yura was given approximately 50 pieces and he informed the guys that it was for the Armed Forces,” - explains Mykola Bohutskyi, the head of the foundation.
In addition to candle production, Frontman actively supports the Armed Forces of Ukraine through other means, including the procurement of vehicles, clothing, shoes, and other forms of logistical assistance. To validate this claim, the entrepreneurs provided us with two letters of appreciation they had received from the Command of the 92nd Otaman Ivan Sirko Separate Mechanized Brigade.
They also shared photographs depicting the delivery of aid to military personnel in front of the store’s sign. Additionally, we were provided with a video showcasing the process of crafting trench candles