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Initial Findings of the Crowdsourced Geolocation and Analysis of Russian MoD Airstrike Videos from Syria

October 6, 2015

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Yesterday Bellingcat launched an effort to use the Checkdesk platform to geolocate and collect additional information on videos posted by the Russia Ministry of Defence showing their airstrikes in Syria. This was triggered after the discovery that two videos the Russian Ministry of Defence claimed were filmed in or near ISIS controlled Raqqa were geolocated to locations over 100 miles west of Raqqa, in non-ISIS territory.

The first batch of videos including 14 videos, 12 of which have now been geolocated.  This has revealed the following information –

  • 3 videos were verified as being in locations matching the title and description of the videos. In all 3 videos the targets of Russian bombing are described as “terrorists” rather than ISIS, which is taken as a catch all term for armed Syrian opposition groups.
  • 5 videos gave locations that were accurate, but described the attacks as targeting ISIS when there is no known current ISIS presence in those areas.
  • 2 videos gave the location as Raqqa, but were in fact filmed over 100 miles west of Raqqa in areas with no known ISIS presence.
  • 1 video gave no location, but was geolocated to an area where there was no known ISIS presence, despite the title of the video claiming otherwise.
  • 1 video gave a location at the entrance to Ma’aart al Nu’man but was geolocated to an area 20km away from Ma’aart al Nu’man.

Based on the videos geolocated thus far there is no indication that the Russian Ministry of Defence has targeted ISIS positions, or hit targets in Raqqa, despite claims to the contrary.

Six new videos have been added to Checkdesk today for geolocation, which you can visit here.

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  1. Edward Horgan

    Wow, so the Russians are lying or giving out misinformation! and we all thought only our own Governments lied to us. Quite a bit of misinformation is being given out on the bombing of Kunduz MSF hospital to try and shift the blame from the US military on to just about anyone else.

    • Andrea

      It’s an awful thing and they MUST find outh where the mistake was made…There is no reason to bomb an hospital…

      But as a complicated thing is better that we wait untill we know more…don’t hurry and speak only about proven facts please

      • Jim Weber

        Of course there are reasons to bomb a hospital. This hospital was attending to the enemy, making them well, enabling them to return to battle. Think as the enemy thinks …. off with their heads ….. so to speak.

        • DRE

          Unfortunately targeting hospitals is contrary to the Geneva convention. A war crime even in a total war scenario, which Afghanistan is not.

          • Jim Weber

            Why is it “unfortunate”? Do you really believe the Taliban, ISIS, Al Nusra et al are signatories to the Geneva convention? These do-gooders, “Doctors Without Borders”, should not be aiding our enemies. They are just as guilty of perceived war crimes in this case. If you knew Hitler and all his henchmen were hiding in a hospital like the Taliban, planning and commanding operations, what would you do? These good doctors can do just as much “good” attending to sickness in non-confliction areas of the world. There is plenty to do besides aiding our enemies. There is far more to this story than is being reported in “Main Stream Media”.

    • Secret squirrill

      In the statements from the armed services briefing, Gen Cambell said clearly the decision was completely within the US chain of command. I am not seeing any sign of blame shifting in that statement. How the error occurred still needs to be clarified.

  2. Douglas MacKinnon

    It would be great if this same level of skepticism and scrutiny was employed with every government’s claims … Including the US. So much of what we hear is propaganda or simply not true and we only find out after the fact. Remember that phrase Reagan brought up with Gorbechev, “trust but verify”. Words to live by!

  3. Doommaker

    While these findings takes a lot of time, and I have seen video excerpts, especially fake Raqqa one, that still leaves me part of the doubt. Can RU MOD give these videos especially to chase the fakes? I mean sometimes we have article in newspaper which has photo just “related” to the event not of the actual event itself. Is it possible to prove it without pointing out that these videos were filmed in other location? Is there any credible source which could confirm or deny that RU attacks really happened near Raqqa?

    • boggled

      A government media like the one in the Kremlin sponsored media saying it is near Raqqa is technically correct, if near is relative.
      We could say Japan is near China, but in all reality of walking distance it is not.

      I am not sure how reliable they are, but this site reports a lot of items in English.
      You could also follow the Raqqa twitter feed and find some evidence i think.

      But obviously both liars and witness accounts can be found there.
      And each group I imagine has its own media (propaganda) wing.

      Fare thee well

  4. Randy Dread

    Russia is bombing.

    they are putting videos out of their bombing.

    maybe they made a mistake or were not precise in their description or maybe lied.

    but who cares? there is not a damn thing anyone can do about it. they dont have to justify their actions to anyone other than the syrian government.

    taking that into account, i see no conceivable reason why they would lie intentionally.

      • Randy Dread

        Russia, Iran, Syria, Iraq and Hezbollah are obviously going to win this war now.

        Together they are easily powerful enough to defeat ISIS and any other terrorists in Syria.

        How are more weapons going to be brought in across the borders with Russian drones watching everything that moves?

        • Tyrone

          Just because the Russians see it. Doesn’t mean they can stop it.

          This will turn in to a long mess for them, one they can ill afford. Putin is doing his damnedest to ensure Minsk is put through in the hope sanctions are lifted to get some cash in the coffers.

          Keeping the comrades on side at home is who this footage is aimed at, not the west.

          Russia need this to be done and done quick. It won’t be.

  5. Austin

    Jesus Bellingcat clutching at straws much man!

    Your a friggin disgrace to the western world you lot!

  6. Darrin

    Fact is Russia is being more effective in its bombing of.rebels.and ISIS and NATO and the west downtime it.

  7. David L

    When we’re talking about “no known current IS presence”, are we speaking of publicly available information shared with media or inside source from military intel? If the former, then this article is definitely grasping for straws and it’s nothing but propaganda.

  8. Mad Dog

    “i see no conceivable reason why they would lie intentionally.” Bwa ha ha!!!! Yeah, them Russkies never have a need to lie. Same thing can be said about the Crimea and the Ukraine. Let’s not forget Chechnya either. Either Randy is a bit simple minded today or he really is a Russian shill. No matter, the Russians, with all their fire power, will be going home with their tails between their legs just like in Afghanistan.

    As for this article being propaganda, I really don’t see the connection, unless one is a fellow Stalinist. BC puts out the info, based on facts that can be traced to a point and lets the audience make their own decision, contrary to places like Russian news where one can view emperor Putin walking along miles of red carpet to the unbridled adulation of hundreds in a palace guarded by toy soldiers……makes me want to puke and laugh at the same time. This is the guy some here are defending. Maybe cause he is adept at striking macho poses. Fact is, the Russians don’t give a damn about the legitimate gripes of people under brutal regimes and they will certainly use their ‘superior’ weaponry to help suppress them, all the while telling lies to the world.

    • Randy Dread

      in this case they don’t have a need to lie.

      theyve been clear that they class the ‘rebels’ as terrorists as well, and that they are bombing them.

    • John

      Russian simply follow the US pace. Just recalled the facts that Afghan commanders were raping boys in US camps. Meanwhile US commanders ordered their solders “not to interfere local customs”.

  9. John

    Lets define what is ISIS “known location”. If the definition is: – “ISIS location known to US government”, then I would omit all analysis made by the author. Because this analysis made possible two more conclusions:
    1) US government simply do not know where ISIS is locate (and I guess CIA is mot so ridiculously ignorant)
    2) CIA knows but US Troops igrnore that information..
    Hence in any case this is a story of blaming others in your own sins.

    • boggled

      The groups in Syria know who the new actors coming on the stage are.
      They know where ISIL is.
      Whether or not they tell everyone else is another thing.
      ISIL did get a start in Iraq (with Russian intelligence) and the USA knows right where they are.
      BHO is one of those guys who does not want to stain his and his democrats party with the blood of innocents.
      Many of the ISIL areas are madrasas where children women are prisoners but parts of their groups.
      To eliminate ISIL, it means eliminating those recruiting and training stations.

      BHO knows if he does that, it will be an international backlash , fueled by the Kremlin, if he attacks these recruiting areas and schools and communities or prisons where ISIL is the guards.

      To do it correctly and quickly, it means boots on the ground, but that is something he would unlikely be able to get past the legislative bodies without making a lot of concessions and most Democrats would not go for it even then.

      Since he is unwilling to do that, he is setting the stage for the next POTUS, training Iraqis and others to be the boots on the ground, which in my eyes is somewhat of right since it is their nation after all,

      He could bomb into submission, but that is not BHO’s style.
      He has refused so many winning game plans presented to him, it is silly.
      With his wishy washy attitude though the Middle East is becoming more and more of a quagmire.
      I hope it works out and he has more people working for him then I do, but I do not see a lot of good outcomes of his strategy.

      I remind you John, vova and the RF were asking the USA for ISIL coordinates.
      Could have been what it is portrayed to be, but it could also be let use know which areas we should not hit because we do not want ISIL coming up to Russia, they can have Iraq.

      We shall see, strange game of global chess 🙄

      Fare thee well

  10. EyeInTheSky

    how do we know what are “IS held territories” and which are not. We are forming our opinion via the deep agenda driven BS US led main stream media. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that there are locations where some IS targets may be and we as Internet warriors are not privy to that information..


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