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The Russian Ministry of Defence Publishes Screenshots of Computer Games as Evidence of US Collusion with ISIS

November 14, 2017

By Eliot Higgins

Translations: Русский

On the morning of November 14th 2017 the Russian Ministry of Defence published multiple posts in Russian, Arabic, and English on their Twitter and Facebook accounts, claiming to show “irrefutable evidence” of collusion between the US and ISIS combat units:

Unfortunately for the Russian MoD, eagle-eyed Twitter users immediately spotted some problems with the images. One image claimed to show an ISIS convoy leaving Abu Kamel on November 9th, 2017:

What this in fact showed was a cropped screenshot from the mobile phone game AC-130 Gunship Simulator, specifically a screenshot from a promo video for the game:

A side by side comparison of the Russian MoD image and the mobile phone game screenshot shows they are identical, with even part of the text from the promo video reading “DEVELOPMENT FOOTAGE. THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. ALL CONTENT SUBJECT TO CHANGE.” visible in the cropped image used by the Russian MoD as their “irrefutable evidence”:

Left – Russian MoD Evidence; Right – The mobile phone game

The other images are also not from the dates and locations claimed by the Russian MoD, but from videos filmed in Iraq in 2016. The Conflict Intelligence Team highlighted one of these videos, showing the Iraqi Air Force bombing ISIS in 2016:

Other Twitter users identified footage from Iraq 2016 reused by the Russian MoD as part of their “irrefutable evidence”:

The Russian MoD is now in the process of removing the social media posts, but this not the first time the Russian MoD has been found using false footage. During Oliver Stone’s documentary on Vladimir Putin, Putin is filmed showing Oliver Stone footage of what he claims are Russian forces in Syria, but what in fact turned out to be old footage of US forces in Afghanistan:

When this was brought to the attention of the Kremlin they claimed the Russian MoD had provided the video. If the Russian MoD is willing to pass off fakes to President Putin it seems somewhat unsurprising they would try to fool the world with video game footage, but, unfortunately for the Russian MoD, it seems the world, unlike President Putin, isn’t so easily taken in by fakes.


Eliot Higgins

Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat and the Brown Moses Blog. Eliot focuses on the weapons used in the conflict in Syria, and open source investigation tools and techniques.

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  1. Thomas Peterson

    Let me put it another way. The Russia MoD using some dodgy photos is not really interesting or important news.

    ISIS being allowed to escape fully armed from Raqqa by the USA is interesting and important though.

    • Dirk

      On the contrary, it further invalidates the mafia syndicate currently running third-world ruSSia. All of their athletes cheat, they attack the West with cyberwarfare, the Tambov mafia robs their country blind by moving their billions to the West, and I won’t even begin on their crimes against humanity, terror, genocide, and political assassinations.
      Now the bigger question is why they remain on the UN Security Council and why is the World Cup being held in a country that is the root cause of international terrorism? After all, who supplies ISIS? Hamas? Taliban? Hezbollah?

      • Thomas Peterson

        Ukrainians need to understand that Russia is an important country and a world power.

        Ukraine on the other hand, is nothing.

        • Dirk

          LOL. Not sure where to start with this one. Russia’s economy equals Italy’s economy. Would you consider that a world power? “Ukraine on the other hand, is nothing.” That shows your true intellect, I guess. Wow.

          • Feanor

            1) Yes, Italy is a world power. Not on par with the US or China but an important player in world affairs.
            2) Nominally yes, but look at GDP PPP as an accurate measure of size, and the picture changes.

        • Nicu Diaconu

          Ucraine is nothing? Thomas Petersen , I think you live in a parallel world.
          Ucraine is the birthplace of Kievan Rus. Russia is a terrorist state. Just has been banned from 2018 Olimpic Games

      • Rob

        Thank you Dirk.
        Russia under Putin has degraded itself to a mafia state, taking state sponsored terrorism to another level and at the very least should be expelled from the UN Security Council.

    • Mad Dog

      Of course, you did not really understand the BBC article. Reading problem? The decision to let ISIS go with families was done by the SDF, ostensibly led by the Kurds. They saw ISIS holed up with hostages and families in the center of Raqqa and decided in a very humanitarian gesture, to let them go with only a limited amount of weapons, etc. The US does not run the show there and if their allies, the SDF, made this decision with ISIS, then that is what it is, despite any protestations from the US. Far cry from the way Russia operates, especially in light of this new comedy show from the MoD. Still laughing at this one!

  2. Dude

    Only a cursory reading through these comments convince me that a
    “Thomas Peterson” is the same old rushka-troll as those old farts “Randy”/”Arya Stark” etc.

    Am I wrong?

    Or maybe not? 🙂

  3. Dude

    P.S. Comrade “stranger”, so familiar to many old participants of this discussion,
    has been apparently “eliminated/terminated” by Comrade Major (closure of the “troll farm”/lack of funding due to western sanctions ? ).

    While rushka-expat-troll “Thomas Peterson”/“Randy”/”Arya Stark”
    is still being allowed to function, for a while. 🙂

    • oui oui

      so , when nervous because one more time ridiculous you play with fake twitter’s accounts then when apaised you come back as at the usual , russian nationalist lying to the russians for the greatness of Russia , that’s a schizophrenia
      stranger – June 30th, 2016
      Trolls work in organized groups:

      -Greg is playing a Russian troll and invite users to debunk easy riddles. He is playing on self esteem of commenters and is forming a negative appearance of a ‘Russian troll’.
      -Dude is trying to associate everybody who disagree with that appearance and label all together. He addresses emotions.
      -Others appeal to the mind and thoroughly and patiently explain how we should understand facts.
      -Mr Fox is posting direct, rude and fake statements just if anybody believe.
      -Rick is aggressively and consicely attacking personalities who disagree.

  4. V_Müller

    Obviously, the Russian MoD hasn’t done its homework properly. This is just ridiculous! Gotta “rush B” next time, guys.
    It’s sad to realise that despite being clearly fabricated, this information seems rather credible for other people, who eventually form their mindset on the bases of that flagrant bullshit. Incoherent line of argumentation, lack of factual evidence, yet the confidence is simply overwhelming! Was that vodka, Russian MoD?

  5. Mad Dog

    Seems even brilliant people can be fooled. Just look at Trump’s recent tweet. LOL, does that open up some real possibilities.

  6. Sean Lamb

    My problem with this is not that screenshot is from the online game – that seems undeniable – or that Russia would make a false allegation using misrepresented data – everybody is doing it these days. Of course we need to remember that although the data is bizarrely false, the allegation may still be true.

    The problem I have is if Russia had decided to make a false allegation using dodgy data, why on earth would they grab a screenshot from a western online game rather than do what the US and UK does, just mislabel some of their own surveillance footage. Does Russia really have no drones and satellites capable of taking that kind of images?

    I guess the other problem is Bellingcat “exposing” it the same day the Russian MOD released it. As we used to say at school: he who smelt it, dealt it.

    We learned from the Christopher Steele dossier that the US and UK have no shortage of Russian contacts willing to feed dodgy intelligence back to us on demand. Maybe they are also willing to feed dodgy intelligence into their own system on our request.

    • Rob

      Sean said :
      “The problem I have is if Russia had decided to make a false allegation using dodgy data, why on earth would they grab a screenshot from a western online game”

      Yes, why, Sean ? Why did they “grab a screenshot from a western online game” ?

      • Rob

        Because they thought they could get away with it.
        Well, surprise, that does not work any more since Bellingcat is around.

        • Sean Lamb

          Doesn’t seem like a very good rationale to me.

          Lets take both your implied contentions as granted
          1. Bellingcat is not a front for Western intelligence agencies to launder their scams and
          2. Bellingcat is superior to the combined weight on Britain and the United States military and civilian intelligence agencies.

          Still, why would the Russians take the risk? Pathetically incompetent as the Pentagon is when compared to the Bellingcat team – isn’t there a chance they might stumble on the truth? Why not just mislabelled a genuine surveillance image like the Americans do?

          • Sean Lamb

            Feanor – do you mean incompetence because such an overt act would risk blowing an active espionage ring or incompetence because Russians would grab images from youtube?

            Given how broken the Russian Federation is, the UK and US would have to be complete incompetents not to have subverted a number of Russian bureaucrats. Money alone is a powerful motivator.

            Think how easy the following scenario is:
            1 A mole alerts their US handler the Russian MOD is preparing a media release on the subject.

            2. US intelligence asks their mole to substitute one of the images with one of their own manufacture. Russian MOD public relations officer continues on without noticing the substitution.

            It is amazing, isn’t it? Sometimes the Russians are so brilliant that they can operate a bogus BlackLivesMatter Facebook account designed to suppress the Democrat vote and seamlessly pass themselves off as angry urban black Americans. Then the next minute they are doing such an extraordinary howler you would think even a schoolkid would avoid doing.

            Is it your belief that the Americans simply couldn’t pull something like this off (and there can be no objections that the Russians aren’t that incompetent to permit such an act – Russian incompetence is a simply a given in any scenario) – or that the Americans are simply too moral to ever attempt anything along these lines.

          • Volo

            Sean Lamb,

            #BlackLivesMatter is a genuine popular initiative. Its parasite known as @BlackNewsOutlet was a Russian scam. It was full of dirty political propaganda aimed at idiots, and it may have as well been produced within US. No brilliance is needed to operate that kind of crap-hole.

            MOD, on the other hand, is an actor of international relations, diplomacy and “sits among equal”. Any obvious fakery denounces Russian reputation even further:
            – Russia is kicked out from G8 for faking Crimean referendum.
            – It is kicked out from MH17 investigation for faking evidence.
            – Now it risks being kicked out of Middle East for fake accusations.


    • LordCrankyPants

      Russia’s attempted cover up of Putin’s MH17 atrocity is replete with ridiculous lies including faked satellite images.


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