Some of the videos in question were posted before the war, while the timing of others remain uncertain. Regardless, Kyiv has been under various levels of curfew ever since the war began, impacting nightlife in the city. A few months into 2022, after the Russian withdrawal from Kyiv, clubs and bars began reopening, creating a semblance of normalcy. In March 2023, curfew was relaxed to midnight allowing clubs and bars to remain open for longer.
Ever since the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, life in the capital city Kyiv has faced major upheavals. At the same time, parts of the region had begun returning to normalcy by early 2023. A number of videos shared on social media in May 2023 claimed to show Kyiv residents dancing and partying late at night in various clubs and bars, with users questioning whether funds should be going to support Ukraine's war effort when things appeared to be so normal.
For example, Twitter user @RadioGeneva wrote, "Meanwhile in Kiev nightclubs…Please donate more money!" in a tweet that included a number of clips showing people dancing and partying in both indoor and outdoor nightclubs.
Our preliminary searches found all of the clips had been posted on the TikTok account @kievnight, which claimed to show "Only Kiev Night Life." We confirmed that at least one of the clips @RadioGeneva shared, was actually posted by @kievnight in December 2021, months before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.
The above clip appears to show a night at Boho, a restaurant and bar in Kyiv. We were able to determine this by comparing and matching the "boho" logo spotted in the background to the signs visible in this Tripadvisor post about the spot, and its official website.
In at least three other clips that were included in @RadioGeneva's posts, @kievnight wrote "tbt" or "throwback Thursday." It is possible that these clips date from before the war, though they were posted on TikTok in 2023.
The following clips, for example, were shared in 2023, but have the label "tbt."
While the TikTok user claimed that these were old posts, we were unable to confirm that without more details. We reached out to @kievnight to determine the origins of these clips and when they were first posted. We will update this post once we learn more.
Regardless of when these clips were posted, there is plenty of evidence that since the war began, Ukrainians have been searching for normalcy in difficult times, and bars, restaurants, and clubs resumed operations with limitations in place. A New York Times story from July 2022 described how nightlife returned to Kyiv, including outdoor raves and gatherings that were seen as a sign of defiance against the Russians.
Bohdan Chehorka, a bartender, told the Times: "This was a big question for me: Is it OK to work during the war? Is it OK to pour a cocktail during the war? But the first shift was the answer. I could see it in the customers' eyes. It was psychotherapy for them."
At that time, curfew had been imposed across the city and everyone was expected to be home by 11 p.m. However, in March 2023, this curfew was relaxed to midnight. According to Serhiy Popko, the head of the Kyiv city administration, this later curfew would increase the times for public transport use and "should help reduce social tension, increase production, create new jobs."
Under the old curfew, restaurants, bars, and clubs closed between 8 and 9:30 p.m. to allow their employees to get home. Kyiv's clubs even began doing day events on weekends and early evenings on Fridays, donating chunks of their profits to the Ukrainian army. According to The Guardian, the cities that were closer to the fighting had earlier curfews. Kyiv had faced fierce battles for control until late March 2022, after which Russian forces announced their withdrawal from the region, and the city returned to relative normalcy, albeit with the threat of air raids.
We should note that even though there was a curfew in Kyiv, select bars and clubs remained open until even later, catering to foreign fighters, expats, and mostly women. Young men who get caught evading curfew are reportedly afraid of being handed a conscription notice.
There is no evidence that money being sent to Ukraine's war effort by the United States and other allies was being spent by the Ukrainians for their nightlife.
Regardless of the precise timing of the above videos, it was widely reported and not a secret that nightlife continued in Kyiv, and searching for a semblance of normalcy in wartime was not as scandalous as posts like the tweet above insinuated. As we await confirmation of the details of some of the shared videos, we are rating this claim as "Research in Progress."