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Geolocation Once Again Disproves Russia’s Targeting Claims in Syria

November 11, 2015

By Nathan Patin

In just three days, Russian aircraft have carried out 137 sorties, targeting 448 “terrorist objects” throughout Syria, according to a Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) press briefing held by spokesperson Igor Konashenkov on 9 November 2015. Three airstrikes previously posted on the MoD’s YouTube page were singled out by Konashenkov for closer examination. Given the Russian MoD’s well-documented propensity for fabricating information, it’s a worthwhile endeavor to verify the Russian MoD’s version of events.

The first video purports to show an airstrike on an “ammunition depot” in the governorate of Raqqa. According to Konashenkov, the depot contained “anti-tank systems, grenade launchers, and small arms,” and heavy vehicles were seen being loaded with weapons, which were “delivered to terrorist groups of the region.” Highlighting that the bombed depot was indeed located in Raqqa, the MoD presentation transitions to the video by having it zoom out from the approximate location where the strike allegedly took place:

2015-11-10 16_27_35

In this instance, the MoD implies that the strike occurred near al-Tabqa in the west of Raqqa Governorate. However, as has been the case dozens of times before, Russia incorrectly described the video’s location in both the press conference and the video itself. The airstrike was geolocated 115 kilometers (km) away near al-Bab, which is in the governorate of Aleppo:

video 1
It’s unclear why the Russian MoD would claim that it was targeting “terrorists” in Raqqa when al-Bab is controlled by the Islamic State (IS) and has been since early 2014.

The second video is described as showing an airstrike against an IS training camp in Idlib Governorate. The difficulty here is that there hasn’t been an IS presence in Idlib since January 2014, when they were expelled by a coalition of rebel groups. Nonetheless, a Su-34 fighter jet “performed a pinpoint strike against the ammunition and weapon depot,” according to Konashenkov. The attack was geolocated in Idlib Governorate as claimed by the Russian MoD:

Video 2

Curiously, however, the video in the MoD press conference zooms out from an area south of Ma’saran (or “Масеран” on the map in the Russian MoD presentation), roughly 20 km away from the actual site of the attack:


Finally, the third video that Konashenkov discusses also claims to show an attack on IS in Idlib, this time against a “strong point” containing a both a communication and command center and an ammunition depot. Geolocation of the strike places the airstrike not in Idlib but in Aleppo Governorate, near Sabiqiyah, where IS has no presence:

Video 3

It’s possible that the airstrike was carried out in order to aid Assad’s forces fighting rebels in the area. The location of the video on the map in the Russian MoD presentation is also incorrect, presenting the attack as having taken place southwest of Ariha in Idlib Governorate, when, in fact, the attack took place in another governorate entirely, just less than 70 km away.


Russia’s persistent inaccuracy regarding the identities of the groups it’s targeting and the locations where it’s targeting them is all the more odd given that the Russian MoD has stated that it only carries out airstrikes when “the data on the engaged objects has been checked through several channels.” Konashenkov claims that targeting and verification information comes from the Syrian government, the Baghdad information center, and “representatives of the Syrian opposition,” though the latter source is particularly dubious. Taking the MoD spokesman at his word means that, even after triple-checking its targets before it destroys them, Russian airstrikes have still managed to exact an immense toll on civilians.

Nathan Patin

Nathan Patin is a Washington, D.C.-based independent researcher and private investigator at the Mintz Group, an international corporate investigations firm. He focuses on open-source investigation tools and techniques, cybercrime, and the Middle East. He has been a member of the Bellingcat Investigation Team since 2015, and he was a guest presenter at Bellingcat's 2018 and 2019 Washington D.C. workshops.

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  1. John Zenwirt

    Sean Lamb;


    Exactly how are you aware, that the fully independent person who wrote this Post, is NOT fully independent…?

    Details, please, and links….

      • Sean Lamb

        Not necessarily. He might be angling for patronage or preferment.

        In Washington they follow Oscar Wilde’s dictum: My idea of an agreeable person is someone who agrees with me.

    • Randy Dread

      by the way Nathan didnt actually do this research. it’s recycled material that’s already been on twitter from other sources.

  2. WatchingThisUnfold

    It’s difficult to get accurate information when on vacation with your Su30. Think about it, one day your driving your tank to vacation on the coast in Odessa, next thing you know your flying all over Syria bombing anything arabic. Simple mistake really.

  3. John Zenwirt

    This is what the USA is now faced with, and the President is not acting with any element of military force;

    “We have two great powers…” (USSR & China). “This is totally different, something than we haven’t had to deal with in the last 25 years,” he (Bob Work) said. “The primary thing we’ve done in the last 12 months is to organize ourselves for combat and to actually think about this problem.”

    (Bob) “Work (ex-State Dep’t.) presented what he calls the “third offset” strategy to avoid a confrontation with Russia and China, focused on developing a new way of conducting warfare that would enable the U.S. to deter Russia and China from ever engaging in a military conflict with the United States.

    The third offset, which includes concepts like “human-machine collaboration,”

    On the one hand you can see how far ahead in high-tech the USA is…”(human-machine)” interfaces…

    I had not heard of this “offset” strategy…

  4. Randy Dread

    John Zenwirt – November 11th, 2015
    On the one hand you can see how far ahead in high-tech the USA is…”(human-machine)” interfaces…

    But China, not the USA, has the world’s most powerful supercomputer.

  5. Randy Dread

    Turns out Nathan Patin works for a company that contracts for the US Federal government and military.

    Wow, didn’t see that one coming.

    • Mad Dog

      And you have proof for that allegation. How did you obtain it so fast? Just posting an accusation is kind of like the stuff being talked about here. Of course, even if your allegation is true, how does that play any role in the information presented here. Are Nathan’s allegations correct or not.

    • Nathan Patin

      Randy, thank you for your prolific commentary. It’s true, I work for a small defense contractor outside of DC, as described on my public LinkedIn profile. My firm specializes in services like transition assistance (i.e., helping veterans transition to civilian life) and medical case management for members of the National Guard. But, as Mad Dog rightly suggests, none of this has any bearing on whether or not the Russian Ministry of Defense has persistently produced false information regarding its military activities in Syria. If you have any evidence that counters the argument made in my piece, please feel free to share it.

  6. stranger

    How news are made nowadays:

    1. BBC: “French airstrikes killed 12 child soldiers”

    2. The Times of Israel: “Russian airstrikes killed 12 child soldiers”

    3. Ukraine УНIАН: “Russian airstrikes killed 12 children”
    the last link is from cache, they have already fixed that in the latest version, other sites like still keep it

  7. stranger

    Regarding the article, the great investigation, but what we have:

    #/MoD Position/Geolocated Position/MoD Reported Target/Actually Controlled by/Confirmed by
    1/Raqqa/Allepo, near Al-Bab/”band groups of the region”/ISIS since 2014/Al Arabiya News
    2/Idlib/Idlib/”terrorist camp”/”Free Syrian Army, Ahrar al-Sham, and Faylaq al-Sham group, and the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front”/unnamed activists on the ground, Al Jazeera
    3/Idlib/Aleppo near Sabiqiyah/”terrorists” (the English subtitles incorrectly say ISIS, but it was not pronounced in Russian! (please check))/”IS has no presence”/??? no ref

    The #1 – confirmed ISIS, #2 confirmed Al-Nusra/Al-Qaeda, #3 who said no ISIS or Al-Queda(?) especially because Allepo, near Al-Bab has ISIS presence according to #1 .

    MoD explicitly stated in the beginning at 00:15 that targets included a wide range of provinces: Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib, Lattakia, Raqqah, Hama, Homs.

    As Sherlock Holms used to say “examine the motive”…

    If MoD wanted to lie and obscure the targets, why would they name the wide list of provinces? Who were they going to deceive: Russian auditory, western journalists, governments backed by own intelligence services? It looks more like inaccuracies in the demonstration video or mistakes of the spokesman, instead of a consistent deceiving legend.

    Also I doubt Russia has even promised to target only ISIS. At the same time in Russia many argue Russia should even engage, concerning civilian victims, ter-thread, etc, but hardly anybody understands or concerns about various kinds of armed groups.

    What was the motive to lie? Did I misunderstand the logic? Please feel free to correct.

    • Andrea

      ” Who were they going to deceive:”
      They deceive russian auditory, because russians are now so brainwashed (thanks to hammering western-phobia propaganda) that they believe only in their MoD statements. And, reaching their goal, MoD is only interested in what their electors think.
      They don’t give a fuc* about what “western propaganda” says…cause westerns won’t vote Putin in next elections. (they are smart !)

      The INACCURACIES are allowed a couple of times, and only by school kids in their presentations . The Ministry of Defense of a nuclear superpower can’t do those mistakes; and for sure cant’ do those mistakes EVERY time…it seems a scheme…A scheme that, by chance, avoid putting MoD under a bad light.

      But i guess that 98% of russians won’t ever know about these fails because, if they read articles like this (posting true and demonstrated facts) they’ll obey to MoD and classify it as propaganda.

      Russia isn’t alone in the world and therefore we have the right to know what they are doing down there. And if they say “we are bombing IS in Raqqa” and instead it appears they are bombing somebody else somewhere else…Is only thanks to this kind of posts that we can see that maybe there is another interest too: fight IS and help Assad against other fighting formations. US support rebels, and Russia can support Assad if they want…but US said it many times to all…they don’t say “the TOWS are to fight against IS” like russian slogan “we are fighting trrorists”.
      If they will ever say “we are helping Assad bombing IS and rebels too”, that would be too easy to understand by russian electors and may result in less votes next time.

      Forgive my italian-english XD

      • Andjey

        IS is not only terrorists in Syria
        Russia bombing ALL terrorists

        “we are helping Assad bombing IS and rebels too” – it was said many times by Mod
        We not want to understand the varieties of shit
        All terrorists must be killed.

          • Andjey

            If you kill army solgier or policemen in Italy – you became terrorist
            Same in Syria

          • Andrea

            No, you are a criminal…

            Terrorist = “a person who uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims”

          • Sean Lamb

            Whether or not all rebels are terrorists, few or no rebels seem to have any qualms about including terrorists under the same umbrella.

            In any case since the rebels after 4 years have proved themselves incapable of winning and holding any major urban center and further it is unlikely that any replacement regime they set up would be any better and probably a great deal worse than Assad, then it is high time they were defunded and the borders of Syria sealed to anyone crossing them with intent to engage or provide support for the conflict.

            After all the Eastern Ukrainian rebels aren’t terrorists and you don’t seem to be very fond of them….

          • Andrea

            Who said donbass separatists are terrorists? For sure not me.
            In fact i actually believe the “ATO” definition is pretty wrong. I didn’t see acts of terror, they should be seen as criminals.

            In Syria Assad is controlling less than 1/3 of his country…and he has a real army with support from Ru, Lebanon and Iran (fighters, weapons, skilled commanders…). And he didn’t reach any gain until Russia’s direct intervention…
            Considering this (and not denying your statement about rebels) my opinion is that if A. stays in power he has two options:
            – Continue a civil war and use military force to repress any kind of rebellion against his dictatorship in “rebel’s areas” that he will regain. This will for sure escalate with real terrorism from rebels (suicide attacks, bombings…).
            – Beg uncle Vova & others to stay in his country and help him destroying what remains of his country and let more refugees flee away. If this happens he’ll lose anyway as he’ll find an underpopulated and half-demolished nation.

          • boggled

            Andrea, I tend to disagree with you not labeling them terrorists in Ukraine.
            Methods have been clear.
            They have used terrorist acts.
            The bombing of Mariupol with Grads.
            The many bomb attacks on civilians.
            They had a well known method of entering a town or village and demanding allegiance to the novoyarossiya project and for that, they would offer their protection to the town.
            When the village refused to take sides or state Unity allegiance, they would leave peacefully to their check point, then would begin random artillery bombardment on the village killing a few civilians, then return and say – Did you see what the Ukrainian military just did?

            It has been repeated over and over again throughout Eastern Ukraine.
            They are using fear and deception to gain territory.
            To me that is terrorism in a convoluted fashion.
            Yes, usually a terrorist’s MO is to go in and not blame the other side.
            But both use the threat of violence and actual violence on a civilian population to encourage a change.




            Also to that I would add the verbal open threats and nuclear blackmail of vova.
            If that is not terrorism, I do not know what it is.
            Even a threat can be called creating terror.

            There were Christmas presents sent to names picked randomly (or not so randomly) for children that contained various explosive devices in 2014 from Eastern Ukraine to all over Ukraine.

            There were beheaded soldiers and civilians in support of Unity that were sent back to their families from Eastern Ukraine with notes stating – you send more to Donbas, this is how they will return.

            There were items sent like this to Mariupol saying accept our rule or we will destroy.

            They are criminals yes, but are using terrorist tactics against a civilian population to assert control and domination.
            They have recently stated again with their bombing campaigns, we WILL enlarge and Donbass WILL be under our control if the population wants it or not.

            And yes, I do consider those that put women in cages as human shields to prevent Russian airstrikes and SAA barrel bombs on their villages as terrorists, but I can almost have an understanding of it.
            And yes, I do consider ASSad as a terrorist for the large civilian death toll.
            We may have some different definition of when a rebel becomes a terrorists.
            To me, when a group of rebels resorts to terrorist tactics against a civilian(s) it becomes terrorism.
            I think all homicide bombers are terrorists, and those that fund, train, and equip them are as well.

            I have a broader range of what I consider terrorists then you do.
            I guess. Maybe I am wrong in my interpretation of the law regarding it, but that is how I feel.
            To me an act of terrorism is meant to instill in a population perpetual fear from doing normal activities where they live.
            But it can also include those that have a cause attached to it.
            John Lee Malvo put fear and terror into everyone travelling up and down I95 in DC and Virginia, but I would label him as a criminal and psycho.
            Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground, to me, was a terrorist and not ‘just a criminal’ because of the cause attached to it.

            Anyways, maybe your more right then I am on the law aspect of it.
            I think if you were aware of the incidents more in Ukraine you might label them as terrorist as opposed to military covert activities or criminal activities.

            Fare thee well

          • Andrea

            thanks for sharing your opinion 😉

            English isn’t my language, so writing an essay about terrorists and rebels in which i explain my point of view is pretty difficult to me, in my mind it isn’t as simple as i wrote ;).
            In both conflicts they did horrible things but they seems little if compared to what is labelled as terrorism (kamikazes, hijacks, 9/11). I don’t want to justify anything, but probably to me is a sort of “getting used to” classify only those major attacks as terrorism.

          • stranger


            You blamed Russian propagan’da on Kiselev TV, but compared to that the Ukrainian propagan’da is a way more fantastic.

            Ukraine always claims, “terroris’ts fire their villages themselves in order to put a blame on Ukrainian army”. On the same time it is known that separatists with heavy weapon are located inside two large cities and multiple towns. The question then, how does Ukrainian army target those separatists in the outskirts or inside the towns? The other question how well Ukrainian army is able to control independent volunteer battalions: Aydar, Donbass, Azov, The Right Sector?

            The answer unfortunately is that both sides don’t care about civilians and fight in living areas with the completely inappropriate weapon: tanks, Grads, ballistic missiles Tochka-Y(!). Ukraine intensively used aircrafts until separatists managed to shoot them down.

            Whenever a shell or Grad come into a living area, both sides start to blame each other, pretty much the same as with Boeing.

            Terrorists proposed towns their protection? What kind of defense could the provide – to become a new target for Ukrainian artillery?

            The rebels are not terr’orists in terms they didn’t intentionally planned tera’cts. (well arguable at least) We know what Chechen terrori’sts are or other Islamic terrori’sts. They still do bear responsibility for civilian casualties, as well as Ukrainian army, as well as volunteer battalions.

            Christmas presents from Donbass, beheaded bodies, c’mon, are we in islamic state? Those are just informational fakes, the same as the retold story about crusif.ied child on Russian TV.

            For example the first link when allegedly 2 Russians fired at Donetsk moving from one place into another at a car, is originally sourced as – a status record on a social network allegedly on behalf of rebels, which then was reprinted by Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Anton Gerashchenko on his facebook, where he probably lied as if it was confirmed by own intelligence services.

            Gerashchenko is famous also by announcing a web site Mirotvorets (a Peacemaker) to gather and expose personal information on people who are reported as terrorists or supporting separatists, w/o any court or trial. A government representative, in a very free and democratic country. After one of Ukrainian opposition journalists Oles Buzina was exposed at this site, he was murd’ered by unknowns (although no prove it was related to the site). Is it only in Russia, oppositio’ners and journal’ists get killed?

            Puti’n has never blackmaile’d by nuk’es. There has been a strategy appeared during USSR times, called Nucl’ear Deterrent, this is actually a defensive policy. It might have been because of that policy we didn’t get the new world war that times. That is indeed what he has always referred, including his Munich speech 2007 which he has never been forgiven for. He has never blackma’iled to use such weapon first. And never admitted usage of tactical nuc’lear weapon in a local conflict.

            There are a lot of misinformation around and unfortunately sometimes it is used as a intentional strategy. On the other hand I agree the conflict has come too far, rebels has the full responsibility for the victims and hopefully Minks agreements will be finally implemented.

          • boggled

            Thank you for expanding your opinion Andrea and your English is exemplary or excellent 😉

            stranger, you claim Ukrainian news is going to super means above and beyond the crucified child writings.
            You do not understand маскировка completely do you?
            There is a large amount of things you are scared to believe because it is too horrific for you to imagine a government you support is contributing to this.

            Encourage you to read my other comment on this thread and its link in the newer comments of this thread from today.

            Did you see Strelkovs official execution orders and what they were for?

            These were not the only ones and the only ways Krmelin’s proxy forces sought to control revolt and villages that they marginally controlled.

            .You like many RF citizens have a lot you refuse to believe.

            AS far as nuclear deterrent, is flying a pair of RF bombers over the English Channel near Britain and beginning to arm them an example of a deterrent or the next higher stage of imposed threat, ie black mail?
            It is one thing to bring a group of fighter jets right near the border of International Airspace, or images like in the movie Top Gun, it is a whole different issue when you go through a process that 5 minutes (or less) later those bombers could have ended the lives of millions.

            This is not posturing, this is evidence of nuclear blackmail and showing an example that they are serious about carrying it out.

            There are a multitude of other incidents, including statements from Poroshenko about talks with vova, talks with Merkel that were intercepted and discussed in intelligence circles, and a few other statements that vova has made publicly.

            Nuclear deterrence is a set policy of ‘red lines’ that are established that would trigger a first strike or tactical nuke use.
            Nuclear black mail is a policy that is outside those ‘established red lines not to cross’, usually related to foreign policy or personal whims of the leaders of nuclear states.
            I would consider Russia’s policy of putting nukes in Cuba as a method of deterrence and the response by the USA as a type of nuclear blackmail Although it was an policy the Kremlin KNEW would be one of those red lines not to cross, but it was not put on paper.

            Many of those red lines were established after the Cuba crisis to prevent that issue from happening again.

            I would also consider RF threat of nukes if they were cut off from SWIFT, a form of nuclear blackmail.
            Do you wonder why that action has been taken off the table as a form of sanctions and has not been discussed since?

            There are others, but that is one of the more obvious ones.

            Fare thee well

          • stranger


            I don’t support the rebels. Strelkov claimed he along started the war at donbass, although he doesn’t look completely sane. Boroday who headed the DNR was also from Moscow. Russia didn’t pursue them when they returned, that means fully supported. Even though they are all withdrawn long ago.

            When you don’t over exaggerate, your arguments look stronger.

            As for nuklear black mail. You may blame Put’in, but he is not insane. I believe that Munich speech 2007 may explain a lot. I’m not saying i support that as well.

            There is such thing as RF military doctrine, which defines usage of nuclear weapon for only defensive purposes. I doubt that president along can make an order which contradicts the doctrine, or such order could be fulfilled, though don’t know.

            No need to send strategic bombers, just because from 50th there are ballistic missiles. The idea was that it takes up to 40 minutes for a missile to cross Atlantic and that time should be enough to detect a trajectory (it’s simply ballistic) and launch own in response. When US deployed their nukes in Turkey first, the fly time decreased to may be 10 minutes so Kruschev thought it was a thread and was trying to move soviets’ ones to Cuba. That was not Kruschev’s first move, it was his response on US nukes in Turkey.

            Flying of fighters and bombers in international air space close to UK and Alaska may be a symbolic gesture, especially in response of flying NATO intelligence planes all over Russian borders, but hardly bombers are charged and it definitely carries no actual thread other than a collision with other air traffic.

            I would very appreciate any statements of Put’in on the nuke black mail with the sources? I have not seen any other than we discussed so far.

            Don’t you care about US being filling Europe with nuclear weapon? There is more less parity with RF, but US still has the largest nuke arsenal in the world. And all such missiles are already targeted, loaded with flight-tasks, since there is no time to prepare them later in case of emergency.

            There are also 7 other countries holding own nukes including not very stable India and Pakistan and also Israel.

            Anyway there should be some discharge or smoothing of rhetoric and other political games from both sides including NATO. The policy on isolation of Russia coming from the West, (in a response to Crimea and Donbass of course, but it is not originally anti-west sentiments from Russia), would not serve anybody.

            I would more be concerned of nukes in the hand of unstable countries in a possible local conflict or especially in the hands of terrori’sts which is just a question of time.

      • Rus

        You stupid !!! YOU believe only in you propaganda !!!!
        USA bomb ISIS 5 year and only kill peace people !!!
        Russia in Youtube post video and WE open for all country !!!!

        • Andrea

          Demonstrate what you are saying please.
          There are videos also of US airstrikes.
          If you post a video, but it has wrong date/information it’s useless…better if you posted none

      • Feanor

        I’m sorry but I have to agree with the first poster. This seems like sloppy work by the MoD press group, rather then a consistent attempt to deceive. Note that they’re not lying about hitting various provinces and locations, merely mislabeling the videos involved. It should also be noted that Russian considers the various Islamic radical groups to fall under the heading “terrorists”, and probably rightly so given their behavior. Do they bomb groups that the west considers moderate? Undoubtedly so. On the other hand the fever pitch of violence and the constant flux which these groups are in leads to a situation where distinguishing people who are there to set up a liberal democracy from people who are there to set up a brutal religious dictatorship, to people who are there to create an insane nightmare state (ISIS) is hard. And given that the first are a tiny minority awash in a sea of the second and third, and are rapidly losing members and even entire units to them, it’s hard to blame Russia for bombing all 3. Even the US can’t keep them straight, as groups trained by the US and armed by the US proceed to join ISIS, or al-Nusra, or hand their equipment over to one or the other. Under these circumstances it becomes hard to point to a single cohesive military entity with moderate political goals, and without that, I’d say they’re all free game.

      • stranger


        I don’t think many in Russia care about what MoD says. The sanctions and moreover the anti-russian rithoric in many western media, sometimes just anti-Putin, and sometimes Russia is implied by Putin, that is what makes many people to oppose the pressure and finally raise Putin support.

        Are there people in Russia who have no Internet and get news from the central TV? I don’t know, they really deserve to be brainwashed.

        I’m not saying I understand. Here is a good view on the situation (not comprehensive, but some interesting slice):
        the sound is awful and difficult to understand, here he basically repeats the same:

      • stranger

        Look at Jen Psaki the spokesperson of the White House (in the past?). If the representative of such super nuclear super power could have made such mistakes, what to expect from MoD of a ‘regional power’ as Obama called it.

        I have also answered in another comment awaiting moderation.

        Your English is very good, not me to judge.

  8. Alexander

    During anti IS coalition the Americans & Co. made tens of thousands of air strikes on IS positions. Surprisingly for the time of those attacks, the potential of IS increased incredibly…. lots of questions……. Where was the independent researcher Nathan Putin. Sorry -Patin.
    A question for bellingcat, which is located at Office 6th on 3rd Floor:
    Don’t you think that by such publications you are discredit all journalistic community?


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