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Crowdsourced Geolocation and Analysis of Russian MoD Airstrike Videos from Syria

October 5, 2015

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Since the beginning of Russia’s air campaign in Syria the Russian Ministry of Defence has been posting videos of some of its airstrikes on its YouTube channel, and initial geolocation analysis of those videos have shown there’s a number of issues with the details provided by the Russian Ministry of Defence along with those videos. In at least two examples the Russian Ministry of Defence has claimed videos show airstrikes in against ISIS in Raqqa, but the videos have been geolocated to locations over a hundred miles away, with no known ISIS presence. In this first video of airstrikes posted on September 30th the Russian Ministry of Defence claims to hit ISIS targets:

In this second video posted on October 3rd the same location is attacked again, and this time the description on the Russian Ministry of Defence video claims the attack is near Raqqa:

However, geolocation of the videos show the location bombed was in fact in the non-ISIS town of Al-Latamneh, over 100 miles away from the location claimed by the Russian Ministy of Defence.

In addition to the Russian Ministry of Defence videos local groups filmed the scene on the ground:


In a second example of the Russian Ministry of Defence misidentifying airstrike locations the following video was posted claiming to show airstrikes on locations southwest of Raqqa:

Yet again, social media sleuths geolocated the video, and showed it was yet again over 100 miles away from Raqqa:

In light of the Russian Ministry of Defence’s difficulties in correctly identifying who, what, and where they are bombing Bellingcat is now launching a crowd-sourced effort on Checkdesk to geolocate every video posted by the Russian Ministry of Defence, as well as collecting additional information about the who, what, and where of what they’ve bombed. Once data has been collected it will be added to a public database showing the location of all the videos and related additional information.

To take part simply visit Bellingcat’s Checkdesk site, and click on the verification footnotes of the update you want to comment on. There you can add any comments or links you might have that are relevant to the video in question. We’re first looking for information to geolocate the Russian Ministry of Defence video the update relates to, then additional information about the site hit, including videos of the airstrikes, the aftermath of the airstrikes, and information on which groups operate in the area.

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89 Comments

  1. solo

    Utter bullshit on this site – Trying pretty hard to discredit Russian efforts because its making the US look like the bunch of tards they really are. Russia’s also doing damage to the US tool called ISIS, and they dont like that very much now do they?

    So take your paid trolling and sod off.

    Reply
    • EthanBear

      I mean for these examples you can clearly see for yourself that the locations are different from the Claimed spot. I measured 216 km from Raqqa. Check out the link to Google maps solo, it shows the clear spot that was bombed.

      Reply
    • Mario

      Even your name is misdirecting, solo. That smells like a member of the big russian propaganda machine.

      They are masters of the disinformation and twisting of facts. Their aggressive and deceptive propaganda is too obvious and yet the russian population just eats it up has facts.

      Reply
    • John Zenwirt

      You are totally wrong. this site clearly has some of the most intelligent and well-sourced posters I’ve ever seen….Sod yerself, mate….

      Reply
    • Bill

      If you feel the data is inaccurate, that is what this site is examining…feel free to post your evidence supporting Russian targeting data..

      Reply
  2. Mr Fox

    Excellent work Bellingcat, again. And I even got some belly laughs from the comments. I see you’ve got the same infection of kremlin comment trolls, with pseudo western names, as the Guardian and a few other prominent western titles. Badge of honour I say. One of them loudly decrying a genuine commenter as a shill. was what made me laugh. It kind of exemplifies how badly the Russian government misunderstand the rest of the world. They think because they can fool their own people by simply owning all the news sites that they can fool other people. They think we believe RT is a real news source. They think paying comment trolls will actually discredit your Stirling work. Anyway, keep on exposing the lies.

    Reply
    • Spy Bee

      Have you tried looking at the situation with new in the US (or the UK) for that matter. They are every bit as bad as RT. In fact, in the UK you will struggle to find a main stream media source that is anything like objective, as medialens.org often highlights.

      Reply
  3. Mad Dog

    Russkies are only there to protect the brutal regime of Assad and that means hit any kind of threat, both secular and non-secular.

    Reply
  4. Booomer

    Well, the Russians declared that they will attack IS(/IS/IL) and any Al-Nusra/Al-Qaeda/extremist/terrorist (whatever-that-means) affiliated militia/faction.
    Due to the volatile relationships between local anti-Assad regime factions/militias, they’ll be pounding almost any rebel location possible. Except maybe for the YPG/Kurd ones. That are not (yet) necessarily anti-Assad, but they fight for their own lives and territory.
    Strangely, I’ve not seen yet any strong reaction against Turkey a while ago, when they joined the ‘anti-terrorist operation’ in Syria, and started pounding the kurdish militias, instead of IS(/IS/IL), whom they have been supporting for quite a while.

    But then again, great idea for the geolocation analysis.

    Reply
  5. Syava

    Peace to you. Russia bombing targets with the approval of the Syrian government. Who does not like to let sues, he will understand according to international laws.
    While Russia does not bring order in Syria, Millions of migrants will go to Europe. And Europe will have to feed them. Why is Europe silent when America bombed Serbia, Libya, Iraq, Libya ????? Who gave her permission ??? Now, imagine that tomorrow America will not like you. And she begins to teach you life. Who said that the Americans are the most intelligent? Personally, I do not think so.

    Reply
      • Vasily

        Not really.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_Nations_Security_Council_resolutions_concerning_Iraq :
        Gave Iraq “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations”. After Hans Blix of UNMOVIC reported to the UN on 7 March 2003, the US, UK, and other members of the “coalition of the willing” declared that Iraq remained in material breach of resolution 687. Efforts aimed at a new Council resolution authorizing the invasion were aborted owing to resistance from other members of the Council including veto-wielding members. Iraq was invaded anyway, on 20 March.

        Additionlly, look at
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council_Resolution_1441

        As you see, operation became legitimate after invasion, not before. As i understand UN resolution 1483 exactly claims that.

        I don’t care about people with guns, no matter who they are. ISIS, Assad, Al-Nusra or just “opposition”, they’re all dangerous. If they threaten me, my country or anyone else, they must be utterly destroyed without any hesitation. With training centers, they will become as strong as Taliban or maybe even stronger.

        Reply
  6. Syava

    Putin then so be bombed. He is president of the vast country – he knows better.
    Putin solves many problems – quickly bombed ISIL, migrants sent home more quickly.

    Reply
    • Mad Dog

      Of course all those countries you mentioned were run by thugs who had no qualms about brutalizing their own people. Saddam killed millions, Khadafi buried opponents in underground cells (among other things), Serbia was intent in wiping out any Muslims in their midst and then went on a rampage in Kosovo, but the Soviets, um Russkies, are supported the thugs! Assad and his father ruled with an iron fist, similar to the way Saddam did and that is the kind of guy Putin loves dealing with. Guess Russia is teaching us that authoritarianism is great.

      Reply
      • Alexander

        The US and its allies are “freeing the country” have killed more than a million civil people …
        where have you been ???

        Reply
        • Mad Dog

          Uh, one million civilians? Really? Where did you get those figures? Historically speaking, that is a major fantasy.

          Reply
          • Vasily

            Iraq invasion: up to 600, 000 dead https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_War
            Vietnam: up to 3.1 millions killed https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War
            Yugoslavia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_during_Operation_Allied_Force ~500 people were killed.

            I doubt that Saddam killed millions, maybe 1 million only.
            According to The New York Times, “he [Saddam] murdered as many as a million of his people, many with poison gas. He tortured, maimed and imprisoned countless more. His unprovoked invasion of Iran is estimated to have left another million people dead. His seizure of Kuwait threw the Middle East into crisis. More insidious, arguably, was the psychological damage he inflicted on his own land. Hussein created a nation of informants — friends on friends, circles within circles — making an entire population complicit in his rule”.[9] Other estimates as to the number of Iraqis killed by Saddam’s regime vary from roughly a quarter to half a million,[10][11] including 50,000 to 182,000 Kurds and 25,000 to 280,000 killed during the repression of the 1991 rebellion.[12][13] Estimates for the number of dead in the Iran-Iraq war range upwards from 300,000.

            So, millions civilians ? Really ? Where did you get those figures ?
            Seems like Amnesty International has deleted or moved page with the reports i needed.

            I’m not fan of any people mentioned above but i think using military force is the last option to “change regime”.

        • Mad Dog

          Alexander, the US killing 1 million civilians in Iraq is a fantasy with no basis. The US, during full blown combat in 3 theaters for over 3 years suffered less than 600,000 dead. Iraq was never a full blown war, nothing like WWII, so numbers like that are somebody’s wet dream, nothing more. Even the 600, mentioned below is far off the mark. An estimate of 300,000 includes those killed by Iraqi thugs, AKA Fedayeen, AKA ‘Freedom Fighters’ who later became a big part of ISIS. Actual civilian deaths caused by US combat forces is far lower, IMHO.

          Reply
          • boggled

            A couple items to remember.
            – Mass graves are still being uncovered of Saddam’s genocidal campaigns to wipe out entire villages, so the numbers are still increasing.
            – Saddam idolized Josef Stalin and used Chemical Weapons specifically in order to wipe out entire cities of people in an overwhelming show of force to oppress those inside Iraq, kind of similar to his Ba’athist partner to the North of Iraq.
            Stalin had many tools he used for his genocides – Moscow ordered famines, chemicals, Gulags, relocation of activist problem civilians (millions moved around and ethnic Russians brought into replace them, and as a bonus they got to keep the items and property the relocated people left behind for free), etc.
            Saddam idolized Stalin, enough said.
            vova is trying to revive Stalin’s image, that is scary.

            Fare thee well

    • John Zenwirt

      Ain’t Dictatorships grand…?

      Our paid Russian commenters with western-sounding names couldn’t be happier…

      Reply
        • boggled

          From my sources, they have been trying to infiltrate the DSB computers and servers almost since the DSB were on the scene of the disaster.
          Although I do not think it was PawnStorm that time, I think it was CyberBerkut or it was traced directly to FSB or a subgroup of A-A servers.
          A-A divides down into 23 different entities I believe.

          Fare thee well

          Reply
  7. Alexander

    Remind who destroyed 2 excavator, hour bombed the hospital and then came on tanks rammed the gate?

    Reply
  8. Spy Bee

    Have Russia bombed any hospitals yet? I’ve heard that a couple of Doctors Without Borders hospitals were bombed; so, that would be Russia right?

    Reply
    • Sebastian

      So Russia is an innocent angel because the USA made some bad bad things? And in this logic Stalin was like Mother Teresa because Hitler was worse? This doesn`t make any sense! Start thinking!

      Reply

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