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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. Valery

    Look from the other side. MoD is trolling investigative bloggers who are working as free advertisers of their news. Who would have noticed the MoD post saying US are neglecting ISIS and in fact encouraging ISIS against Syrians, if not PRed so widely by the all the same old fellows-bloggers? That was the message. The pictures were just a decoration.

      • Valery

        I don’t believe that MoD is SO stupid. That is either a kind of joke of the stuff who are posting on social networks, since one understands that social media is not an official source. Or an intentional trolling since this image has already been present in some older publications and was discussed by B/c. Or a falsification by bloggers, which seems less probably, but strictly speaking possible. In any way the main topic of the message is the critic of our “partners” in US. Do you really believe US would not be happy to indirectly use ISIS against their “opponents”? Of course that is what they have always being doing.

          • Valery

            It is not a good idea to underestimate one’s opponents – it can bring to an awkward position.

          • Valery

            They have published new photos.
            Russian readers are no stupider than average westerners bombed by own propaganda 24/7.

          • Eliot Higgins

            Ask yourself, why would you believe they’re authentic after this morning?

          • Eliot Higgins

            They were posted on Twitter by an organisation known to lie about drone images.

          • Thomas Peterson

            Eliot Higgins – November 14, 2017
            “They were posted on Twitter by an organisation known to lie about drone images.”

            That doesn’t tell me if they are true or false.

            Everyone has lied, notably the US when it invaded Iraq on false pretences.

          • IAEA

            Regarding “… it invaded Iraq on false pretences, one should remember that Saddam was caught by the IAEA to be secretly developing uranium enrichment techniques. After that it was quite reasonable to suspect him of having developed chemical warfare.

  2. Dirk

    What a lame third-world fascist state. Why are they still on the UN Security Council? Why hasn’t the World Cup been relocated to a non-terror state venue? Act now or pay later.

  3. Thomas Peterson

    The BBC has uncovered details of a secret deal that let hundreds of IS fighters and their families escape from Raqqa, under the gaze of the US and British-led coalition and Kurdish-led forces who control the city.

    A convoy included some of IS’s most notorious members and – despite reassurances – dozens of foreign fighters. Some of those have spread out across Syria, even making it as far as Turkey.

    • Andrea

      Secret? Maybe those living under rocks didn’t know about that deal…

      In russian perspective was better to turn to ashes a city and slaughter civilians in the process in order to capture some IS turds…

      But then they would have probably cried cause of the civilian casualties inflicted by Coaliton attacks…

      • simon rochelle

        The coolition flattened the city with months of bombing. Raqqa is gone. Then they let all of ISIS leave rather than finshing them off.

      • Thomas Peterson

        I dont know if you’ve seen Raqqa, but it’s been almost destroyed.

        And if you read the BBC article, thousands of ISIS fighters were allowed to escape with truckloads of weapons.

        Doesnt sound much like fighting ISIS to me. More like relocating them.

    • Tom

      *yawn* Russia was the pioneer of these convoy deals and have used them many times, including with ISIS fighters. Non-point, non-story. But hey, don’t let your lack of understanding or knowledge of the conflict get in the way of a hot anti-America take!

      • Feanor

        No. They used convoy deals with non-ISIS fighters, and specifically banned removal of heavy weapons or large quantities of money or supplies. The “green bus” deals that Russia pushed for were aimed at reconciliation and included amnesty offers for those fighters who wanted to surrender, while allowing safe passage into Idlib to those who wanted to fight under the condition that they surrender all heavy weapons and most of the financial reserves. This is a different story entirely.

        Also the Russian-sponsored deals frequently included requirements to surrender individuals that were involved in war crimes.

  4. Andrea

    HEY !
    but now MoD published new stuff, and they say those are the real deal, we must trust them now !
    It was just a little mistake while a nuclear power accusing another one of collusion with the worst terror group… why all this mess for such a little mistake???

  5. Mad Dog

    The MoD continues to show how inept it really is, just like their continuous errant air strikes that they never own up to. Reminds me of the good old days when the USSR was still around.

    • Black Star

      It is very strange that they lie even they really do not need to. Nobody is faultless, so they could easily take some blame when it is absolutely obvious. Now that they keep on with the total denial, they are totally laughable. But it is of course possible that when you start lying, you do it everywhere.

  6. wererabbit

    Anyone who thinks this isn’t possible, is a fool. Putin openly kills his opponents, even in other countries. That Gov’t is capable of doing this and has in the past. They are not the brightest, but are very arrogant. Hence, silly tweets like this one.

  7. Volo

    Russia24 broadcasting network has made a news coverage of MOD’s tweet stating that those CGI vehicles were actually spotted at Syria-IRAN border!
    Can you get any more absurd?

    I’d love to see the place, though. Is it near Austrian-Australian border?

    • Volo

      How more absurd can you get? But, like they say on TV: ONLY TODAY YOU GET A SPECIAL OFFER!

      Recently Gen. Sergey Shoygu (head of the Russian MOD) has stated that Russian-Assad alliance has liberated 503,223 km² (194,295 mi²) of Syrian territory from ISIS.

      Let me remind you that total area of Syria is 185,180 km² (71,498 mi²). I.e. Russians have “liberated” 270% of Syria!

      Let’s (for a second) assume that Gen. Shoygu is a human being and prone to occasional mistakes. To clarify the issue, prof. Ivan Marushak of MGIMO University has addressed MOD for clarification. Here is their reply dated November 12, 2017:

      I can make a proper translation, if you’d like, but shorter version is as follows: “UN has WRONG maps, MOD measurements take in account mountainous terrain and river bottoms and “actual” area of Syria is 529,708 km² (204,521.402 mi² – 286% of country’s size)“.

      I am lost for words. After some consideration I’ve come up with some theories:

      1. Earth is in fact flat and Syria is distorted the way flatearthers like it to be distorted;
      2. Earth is hollow and Russians quite successfully wage war against the lizard people on the inside of the globe;
      3. Russia has annexed Iraq and Jordan, whilst we were not looking; or
      4. (last, but not least) Russians just do not know what they are bombing, who they are killing, why they are doing it, and have no strategy, objective and grasp of reality whatsoever!

      I am sad 😢

      Further reading (English):

        • Volo

          BBC covers IS exodus from Raqqa on 12th of October (which was on route not longer than 3 days) – TRUE NEWS.
          Russia’s MOD claims to have spotted CGI trucks near Abu Kamal – FAKE NEWS.

          See how difference in 28 days and distance of 300 kilometers distinguishes journalism from fakery?

      • Feanor

        Incompetence. They’ve corrected the mistake since and released updated images. To be honest this isn’t surprising. The level of professionalism in the MoD press service has been shit throughout this conflict. Given some mysterious movement of ISIS forces throughout this conflict, it’s not impossible that there were deals made to allow ISIS passage, when their known target was the SAA or their allies.


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