Russia Ukraine conflict: Fact-checking Russian TV’s Ukraine claims

By Reality Check and BBC Monitoring

Russia has played down accusations of a military build-up near Ukraine’s border – a view amplified by a state television channel, which has broadcast misleading footage about US tanks and planes.

We’ve fact-checked claims from one of the country’s most well-known pro-government news shows – Vesti Nedeli (“News of the week”).

The weekly news programme on Rossiya 1, Russia’s most popular TV channel, is presented by Dmitry Kiselyov, a controversial media personality known for his anti-Western views.

An American plane lands in Alaska – not Ukraine

A recent report on the programme detailed the alleged build-up of Nato military hardware in Ukraine.

“Never before has there been so much of the alliance’s military equipment on Ukrainian soil,” said the narrator over footage of an American C-17 military transport plane landing on an airstrip.

But the aircraft did not, in fact, land in Ukraine.

The footage – apparently taken from the website of the US Department of Defense – actually shows the C-17 landing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.

In the original version of the clip, mountains can be seen faintly in the background, but in the Russian version, they are not visible at all.

The Russian news report was sourced to a YouTube channel which says it broadcasts “US military news”. That channel posted a slightly different and longer version of the plane landing. And the clip appears to have been brightened – an effect that obscured the mountains in the background.

But other details in the clip align exactly with the US Department of Defense video from Alaska. For instance, a white building, a small shack with a green roof, and other small details are visible in both pieces of footage.

There’s no doubt the video clips came from the same source material – shot in Alaska, not Ukraine.

Old footage shows an American tank in Bulgaria – not Kyiv

The Vesti Nedeli report went on to suggest that American tanks have been delivered to Ukraine.

It showed a clip of a US M1 Abrams tank being unloaded from a military transport plane, with a voiceover suggesting that the footage was either from the capital, Kyiv, or Lviv, in western Ukraine.

In fact, the footage is from Burgas, Bulgaria, site of a military exercise called Operation Speed and Power in 2015.

Again, it’s US Department of Defence footage – a video and still images of the unloading were published by the American military.

We managed to find the original footage by searching through lists of details of the military hardware in the clip.

And again the details in the two clips match up, proving the falsehood beyond a doubt. Both the original video and the footage shown on Russian TV contain identical details such as a Lukoil truck and a man wearing a high-viz jacket.

Tracking down a Lord Palmerston ‘quote’ – that he never said

The high profile show also featured discussion about how the US was allegedly “pushing” Ukraine towards war with Russia.

Mr Kiselyov, once dubbed Russia’s “chief propagandist”, referenced a quote from an unlikely source to lament his country’s plight: Lord Palmerston, British Prime Minister during the Crimean War in the 1850s.

The presenter quoted him saying: “It’s so difficult to live when no-one wages war on Russia.”

It was a useful historical argument for Mr Kiselyov’s views, with one problem – there’s no evidence that Lord Palmerston ever said it.

BBC Monitoring’s Russia specialists went in search of the quote but were unable to find a credible record of the former prime minister ever saying it.

The University of Southampton, which holds an extensive Palmerston collection, also found no record of him making these comments. According to the university’s archivist, there are no references to it in Palmerston: A Biography by David Brown.

In Russia, Lord Palmerston’s observations have been reported as part of a speech he made in the House of Commons on 1 March 1848. But the quote is not in the official transcript of that address.

The earliest mention of the remarks that we’ve found attributed to Lord Palmerston are contained in a work of historical fiction – published in 2011.

The same phrase appeared in a blog post of another Russian fiction writer two years later.

The BBC has attempted to contact Vesti Nedeli for comment.

image captionThousands have died in the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists

Analysis by Adam Robinson, Russian media analyst, BBC Monitoring

The main impression being transmitted on Russian state TV seems be that Ukraine and the West are somehow responsible for the upsurge in tensions. But the programmes offer little in the way of details as to what exactly they did to spark the tension.

The gap has been filled by various, at times conflicting theories- a tactic used in the past by Russian state media when Moscow is accused of something, such as during the Salisbury poisonings.

At times, a West bent on weakening Russia is cast as egging Ukraine on, at other times, it is a supposedly bloodthirsty Ukraine trying to drag the West into a war of revenge against Moscow.

There has also been an emphasis on emotional coverage of victims of alleged Ukrainian aggression in the conflict area. Ukraine alleges that Russia is to blame for most ceasefire violations.

Another claim is that Ukraine and the West are massing forces in the region.

But again, details are sketchy, and the footage used to illustrate this has at times been out of date.

So Ukraine says any military activity on its side is a response to the recent Russian military build-up in the region.

(c) BBC

9 comments

  • “The BBC has attempted to contact Vesti Nedeli for comment.”

    Why would you want to contact this trash channel, are you expecting the truth?

    Liked by 4 people

    • Peter Hitchens, putler’s most persistent lying shill in Britain, has posted a typical piece of lies and hate today in the MOS.
      I have responded, but don’t hold out much hope that the putler-loving mods will permit it.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I read the article were he claims we are the ones pushing for war. All I see in the article is a pile of whataboutisms, not a word about countries being allowed their sovereignty.

        Liked by 4 people

        • Here is my (so far unpublished) comment :
          ”No one is advocating for a war with Russia. It is Russia that is at war with its much weaker neighbours and has been already for longer than ww2. As usual, you cover yourself by admitting the truth about it being ruled by ‘nasty, sinister despots, but you then go on to write an article that could easily have been lifted from RT or Sputnik; the hate and lies propaganda channels controlled by the dictatorship.
          You are so full of sympathy for Russian people, yet have nothing but contempt for the real victims: Ukrainian people, who suffered from the horror, genocide and misery of 360 years of Russian occupation and now face an existential threat yet again. The Ukrainian people have the same right to live in peace and free from imperialist interference as any other free people. In your many years of columns sympathising with Russians, you have never written even one kind word for Ukrainians, who have suffered more than any nation on earth. You adopt the same sneering attitude to another victim of Russian imperialism: Georgia.
          The malignant rulers of Russia and their media lackeys are repeatedly threatening the destruction of Ukraine, in the same way that Iran, which happens to be a client of Russia, threatens Israel with destruction.
          Israel is protected from destruction, Ukraine is not. The civilised world simply needs to ensure that Ukraine has the same level of protection as Israel.
          It’s hard to see how your attitude is much different from the trolls in this paper’s comments sections who are gloating at Ukraine’s plight”.

          Liked by 4 people

          • I have never read one pro Ukrainian article on that site. Every article regarding Ukraine is always negative, even if they don’t involve Russia.

            Liked by 4 people

            • The MOS and DM are far worse than RaT because they are the biggest circulation English language news sites in the world. It would appear that in addition to the foul Hitchens, the editorial staff, subs and mods, have all been infiltrated by putinoid scum.

              Liked by 4 people

      • Indeed, there are many mafia commentators there. It`s deplorable how the West is allowing such blatant propaganda and lying on its sites these days.

        Liked by 4 people

  • onlyfactsplease

    Fake Ruskie news is usually very easy to expose as the glaring lies that they are.

    Liked by 3 people

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