Is the ‘Why Ukraine Matters’ Facebook Post Truthful?

As Russian troops amassed at Ukraine's borders in February 2022, Facebook posts listed more than 30 purported reasons as to why the country held a place of unique importance.

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Copypasta from viral Facebook posts claimed to show more than 30 reasons of why Ukraine matters.
Image via Ukrainian Presidency / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Claim

Facebook posts that list more than 30 reasons in the world economy as to "why Ukraine matters" contain accurate data.

Rating

Context

Much of the data included in the viral "why Ukraine matters" posts were true. Some of the items on the list had become outdated, but more recent numbers still showed that the country had a strong standing in various categories of reserves, production, and exports. However, we were unable to find figures to confirm a few of the claims, and a small number of them were flat-out false.

Origin

On Jan. 3, 2022, a Facebook user posted more than 30 purported reasons as to why Ukraine matters. It was copied and pasted many times on social media in what’s known as copypasta. The data from the posts also showed up on the AndesiteBlue website and in Twitter threads.

We found a similar post on LinkedIn from January 2021 titled: “Ukraine’s positions in Europe and the world.” It was credited to Mykola Siutkin. That indicated to us early on that some of the data were perhaps outdated when it went viral in 2022. The more recent social media posts came at a time when hundreds of thousands of Russian troops were on the brink of invading Ukraine. The signs of a potential conflict led to NATO allies telling their citizens to leave the country. The situation also escalated warnings of “devastating economic and trade sanctions” for Russia.

Some readers may have seen that The New York Times published a story on Feb. 19 with the headline, “Why Ukraine Matters: What to Know About the Crisis With Russia.” However, that article appeared to have a very different focus than the social media claims.

For this story, we will look at the truthfulness of the more than 30 individual claims that were listed in the viral Facebook posts.

The Viral Posts

One of the many Facebook posts with the copied-and-pasted text read as follows:

Why does the Ukraine matter? Just a little info on the natural resources, economy, geographic location, and size of why it’s important to Europe and the global supply chain.

How the nation of Ukraine ranks:

  • 1st in Europe in proven recoverable reserves of uranium ores;
  • 2nd place in Europe and 10th place in the world in terms of titanium ore reserves;
  • 2nd place in the world in terms of explored reserves of manganese ores (2.3 billion tons, or 12% of the world’s reserves);
  • 2nd largest iron ore reserves in the world (30 billion tons);
  • 2nd place in Europe in terms of mercury ore reserves;
  • 3rd place in Europe (13th place in the world) in shale gas reserves (22 trillion cubic meters)
  • 4th in the world by the total value of natural resources;
  • 7th place in the world in coal reserves (33.9 billion tons)

Ukraine is an agricultural country:

  • 1st in Europe in terms of arable land area;
  • 3rd place in the world by the area of black soil (25% of world’s volume);
  • 1st place in the world in exports of sunflower and sunflower oil;
  • 2nd place in the world in barley production and 4th place in barley exports;
  • 3rd largest producer and 4th largest exporter of corn in the world;
  • 4th largest producer of potatoes in the world;
  • 5th largest rye producer in the world;
  • 5th place in the world in bee production (75,000 tons);
  • 8th place in the world in wheat exports;
  • 9th place in the world in the production of chicken eggs;
  • 16th place in the world in cheese exports.
  • Ukraine can meet the food needs of 600 million people.

Ukraine is an industrialized country:

  • 1st in Europe in ammonia production;
  • 2nd in Europe and 4th largest natural gas pipeline system in the world (142.5 bln cubic meters of gas throughput capacity in the EU);
  • 3rd largest in Europe and 8th largest in the world in terms of installed capacity of nuclear power plants;
  • 3rd place in Europe and 11th in the world in terms of rail network length (21,700 km);
  • 3rd place in the world (after the U.S. and France) in production of locators and locating equipment;
  • 3rd largest iron exporter in the world
  • 4th largest exporter of turbines for nuclear power plants in the world;
  • 4th world’s largest manufacturer of rocket launchers;
  • 4th place in the world in clay exports
  • 4th place in the world in titanium exports
  • 8th place in the world in exports of ores and concentrates;
  • 9th place in the world in exports of defense industry products;
  • 10th largest steel producer in the world (32.4 million tons).

https://ukrainainc.net/2022/01/28/ukraine-ranks/

The link at the end of the post appeared to perhaps go to a source for the information. However, it simply led to a website that cited the original Jan. 3 Facebook post.

The viral posts were broken out into three sections: Ukraine’s ranking in the world for key natural resources, for agriculture, and for industry. We’ll look at each individual claim, one by one. Data vary based on the year gathered, so we looked for the most recent reports available for each category.

Ukraine’s Resource Ranking in the World

✅ True. “1st in Europe in proven recoverable reserves of uranium ores.” Data from 2018 that were published in 2020 showed that Ukraine was seventh in the world for recoverable reserves of uranium ores and in first place for Europe. (Source: Statista.com)

✅ True. “2nd place in Europe and 10th place in the world in terms of titanium ore reserves.” According to information from 2021, Norway was the only European country with more titanium ore reserves. (Source: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Page T11, Exhibit C)

✅ True. “2nd place in the world in terms of explored reserves of manganese ores (2.3 billion tons, or 12% of the world’s reserves).” The website ukrainetrek.com backs up this data. (Sources: ukrainetrek.com and USGS)

✅ True. “2nd largest iron ore reserves in the world (30 billion tons).” Data published in 2010 showed that Ukraine was only topped by China in this category. It’s unclear if more recent numbers changed those rankings. (Source: USGS)

✅ True. “2nd place in Europe in terms of mercury ore reserves.” As of 2010, Spain was the only European country that had more mercury ore reserves. (Source: USGS)

✅ True. “3rd place in Europe (13th place in the world) in shale gas reserves (22 trillion cubic meters).” This was correct with the context that it appeared the “22 trillion cubic meters” number was a typo. According to Reuters in 2012, the number was 42 trillion cubic meters. (Source: Reuters)

❌ False. “4th in the world by the total value of natural resources.” We were unable to find any data to corroborate this statistic. According to theglobaleconomy.com, in 2019, Ukraine ranked 78th in the world for “income from natural resources” in “percent of GDP.” In 2021, Investopedia also published a list of the countries with the most natural resources. Ukraine did not make the top 10. (Sources: theglobaleconomy.com and Investopedia)

? Outdated. “7th place in the world in coal reserves (33.9 billion tons).” While this was true according to data from 2016, updated numbers from 2019 showed that Ukraine fell one spot to eighth place. (Source: BP)

Ukraine and Agriculture

✅ True. “1st in Europe in terms of arable land area.” According to the CIA’s World Factbook, 56.1% of Ukraine’s land is arable. Arable land is defined by Merriam-Webster as land being “fit for or used for the growing of crops.” (Source: CIA)

✅ Mostly True. “3rd place in the world by the area of black soil (25% of world’s volume).” While we did not find data that matched these exact numbers, the point being made here was that black soil was abundant in Ukraine. In 2014, the FAO Investment Centre published a report on worldbank.org that mentioned more data:

Ukraine is renowned as the breadbasket of Europe thanks to its black soils (“Chernozem” black because of the high organic matter content) which offer exceptional agronomic conditions. One-third of the worldwide stock of the fertile black soils, which cover more than half of Ukraine’s arable land, a large variety of climatic zones, and favourable temperature and moisture regimes, offers attractive conditions for the production of a large range of crops including cereals and oilseeds. Ukraine’s proximity to large and growing neighbouring markets – the Russian Federation and the European Union – and access to deep sea ports at the Black Sea, provide direct access to world markets, especially large grain importers in the Middle East and North Africa. (Source: worldbank.org)

✅ True. “1st place in the world in exports of sunflower and sunflower oil.” This data came from 2019. (Source: The Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC))

? Outdated. “2nd place in the world in barley production and 4th place in barley exports.” According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, (USDA), the barley production figure was outdated. As of 2021-2022, Ukraine was fourth in barley production. Meanwhile, as of 2020, data for barley exports did show Ukraine in fourth place. Both sets of data came from several years in the past, but since that time the country happened to not move out of its fourth place standing for barley exports. (Source: USDA and worldstopexports.com)

? Outdated. “3rd largest producer and 4th largest exporter of corn in the world.” According to data from 2019-2020, Ukraine is the fifth-largest corn producer in the world and the fourth-largest exporter. The data in the “why Ukraine matters” social media posts looked to be outdated, even though the corn export placement was still the same. (Sources: Investopedia and worldstopexports.com)

? Outdated. “4th largest producer of potatoes in the world.” While outdated, this was still a positive category for the country. Ukraine was third place in potato production, according to the most recent data that came from 2019. (Source: FAO Investment Centre)

? Outdated. “5th largest rye producer in the world.” This was another case where the data were outdated, but the recent numbers were more positive for Ukraine. The 2019-2020 growing season showed that the country was the fourth-largest producer of rye in the world. (Source: Statista.com)

✅ True. “5th place in the world in bee production (75,000 tons).” The website NationMaster.com showed that this was true. (Source: NationMaster.com)

? Outdated. “8th place in the world in wheat exports.” We’re not sure what year the data were collected, but we found in 2020 that Ukraine ranked fifth worldwide in wheat exports, higher than the viral Facebook posts claimed. The figure in the viral “why Ukraine matters” posts was outdated, but the more recent numbers were even more positive for the country. (Source: worldstopexports.com)

? Outdated. “9th place in the world in the production of chicken eggs.” According to data from 2020, the most recent we could locate, Ukraine wasn’t in the top 10 for egg production by country. The ninth place figure appeared to come from older reports. Further, the country had a “crisis” over issues with egg production in 2021, meaning that it did not have as strong of a standing in this category. (Sources: Statista.com and PoultryWorld.net)

❌ False. “16th place in the world in cheese exports.” Data compiled in 2020, which was the most recent year available, showed that Ukraine ranked 50th in cheese exports by country, not 16th. In that year, the country produced $24,319,000 worth of cheese exports, a decline of 9.2% from the previous year. We also looked at data from 2018 and found that Ukraine wasn’t in the top 25 that year either. (Source: World’s Top Exports)

✅ True. “Ukraine can meet the food needs of 600 million people.” This statistic appeared to come from Kyiv Post. (Source: Kyiv Post)

Ukraine and Industry

❌ False. “1st in Europe in ammonia production.” Data published in 2020, the most recent numbers available, showed that Germany, Netherlands, and Spain all had more ammonia production than Ukraine. We were unable to find figures from a previous year that showed Ukraine to be in first place in Europe for this category. (Source: Statista.com)

✅ True. “2nd in Europe and 4th largest natural gas pipeline system in the world (142.5 bln cubic meters of gas throughput capacity in the EU).” A 2007 report from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies said: “Roughly 20% of Europe’s gas passes through Ukraine and the country has the third-largest gas production and the fourth-largest gas market in Europe.” As for the number included in the parentheses, we found that it had been published by TASS, the Russian News Agency. (Oxford Institute and TASS)

? Outdated. “3rd largest in Europe and 8th largest in the world in terms of installed capacity of nuclear power plants.” This data appeared to be outdated, but more recent numbers were more positive for the country. In 2020, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Ukraine had advanced to second place in Europe and seventh place in the world for the installed capacity of nuclear power plants. (Source: IAEA)

? Outdated. “3rd place in Europe and 11th in the world in terms of rail network length (21,700 km).” This appeared to be outdated. The most recent cited data that we could find was from 2014. It showed Ukraine in fourth place in Europe and thirteenth in the world for rail network length. The length number that was included was 22,300 km, which was more than what was shown in the “why Ukraine matters” Facebook posts. (Source: NationMaster.com)

❓ Unproven. “3rd place in the world (after the U.S. and France) in production of locators and locating equipment.” We were unable to find reliable data for this specific category.

? Outdated. “3rd largest iron exporter in the world.” This data likely came from several years back. The most recent data that we could find was from 2020. It showed that Ukraine was in 5th place for iron exports. (Source: Statista.com)

❓ Unproven. “4th largest exporter of turbines for nuclear power plants in the world.” We were unable to find reliable data for this specific category.

❓ Unproven. “World’s 4th largest manufacturer of rocket launchers.” It’s unclear if this category meant all kinds of rocket-firing equipment or only a portion of the weaponry. Either way, we were unable to find reliable data. It’s true that Ukraine does manufacture rocket launching equipment, but data based on country rankings of manufactured units did not appear to be available.

? Outdated. “4th place in the world in clay exports.” This data appeared to be outdated, but still positive for the country. Figures from 2019 showed that Ukraine had advanced to third place in the world for clay exports. (Source: OEC)

? Outdated. “4th place in the world in titanium exports.” This data came from 2018. By 2019, Ukraine had fallen one spot to fifth place in the world for titanium exports. (Sources: World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS) and OEC)

❓ Unproven. “8th place in the world in exports of ores and concentrates.” There’s no question that Ukraine’s overall ore exports placed the country as one of the leaders in the world, as numbers from the International Trade Centre (ITC) showed. However, we were unable to find any data that said Ukraine was in eighth place for “exports of ores and concentrates.” The closest we could find was a source that said Ukraine was in ninth place worldwide for exports of “ores, slag, and ash.” (Source: ITC)

? Outdated. “9th place in the world in exports of defence industry products.” This data appeared to be outdated. A source put Ukraine in twelfth place for “market share of the leading exporters of major weapons between 2016 and 2020, by country.” (Source: Statista.com)

? Outdated. “10th largest steel producer in the world (32.4 million tons).” Ukraine was the 10th largest producer of steel in 2016. However, the most recent data from 2020 showed that the country fell two spots to twelfth place. (Source: Wikipedia and World Steel Association)

Conclusion

Much of the data included in the viral “why Ukraine matters” posts were true. Some of the items on the list had become outdated, but more recent numbers still showed that the country had a strong standing in various categories of reserves, production, and exports. However, we were unable to find figures to confirm a few of the claims, and a small number of them were flat-out false. For all of these reasons, the social media posts were neither definitively true, false, outdated, nor unproven, but rather a mixture of all four. That’s why we chose the rating of “Mixture.”

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