Editor’s note: This article contains graphic content.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian military forces have launched full scale attacks in Kyiv suburbs, including Bucha and Irpin. In Bucha alone, more than 300 civilians have been reported dead in the attacks.
Even though gruesome videos and photos of dead bodies have been shared by news outlets including the Associated Press, Kremlin-backed media are denouncing the violent footage, claiming the videos are staged.
On April 7, Russia-24, a government-run television station in Russia, shared a video clip showing two individuals making adjustments to a mannequin that was wrapped in tape. The network claimed Ukrainians have been using mannequins to stage civilian bodies in an effort to exaggerate war casualties.
Does the footage aired by Russia-24 show the Ukrainian military using mannequins to exaggerate war casualties?
- Nadezhda Kolobaeva, a filmmaker based in Russia
- Television show crew members
- Original footage from Russian TV show
- Google Maps
No, the video does not show Ukrainians using mannequins to exaggerate war casualties. It was actually behind-the-scenes footage from a television show being filmed in Vsevolozhsk, Russia.
WHAT WE FOUND
In the Russia-24 news clip, the broadcaster says in Russian: “Here you can see the preparations for the 'theater,' literally, of war activities in Ukraine. As you can see for yourself, it's not complicated. Two men in military outfits are wrapping this dummy in scotch tape, with the clear purpose of presenting it as a dead body.”
The clip referenced by the broadcaster was not taken in Ukraine, though. The video was actually a behind-the-scenes clip from the set of a television show being filmed in Vsevolozhsk, Russia, on March 20.
Nadezhda Kolobaeva is a first assistant director on the set. Kolobaeva asked VERIFY to use her real name and quotes in this report. She told VERIFY she found out about the Russia-24 segment when a colleague sent it to her via the messaging app Telegram.
“This video was supposed to discredit the Ukrainian Army by claiming the deceased in Bucha were actually the dummies, not the living people. Nevertheless, to my surprise, on that video I recognized my friends and colleagues working on the movie set. I was there at this very moment when this video was filmed,” Kolobaeva said in a video statement she sent to VERIFY.
Kolobaeva said the crew members were preparing the dummy by wrapping it with scotch tape in order to drop it from a high elevation, to simulate a person falling from a building onto a parked car. She posted footage from the TV set to Facebook and also sent additional videos and photos to VERIFY.
The crew members seen in footage provided by Kolobaeva are wearing the same clothing as the people featured in the clip that aired on Russia-24.
By using Google Maps, VERIFY could also confirm the location of filming was in Vsevolozhsk, Russia, and not in Ukraine like Russia-24 claimed. The buildings in the footage from the television set can be seen on Google Maps.
Kolobaeva said one of the crew members seen in the footage shared by Russia-24, is suing the network because he was seen on-air in connection to the false claim. VERIFY has reached out to the crew member for comment but did not receive a response at the time of publication.
Another crew member on the set also wrote about Russia-24’s “fake” video. They called Russian media’s use of this video “propaganda in action in an attempt to feed the audience more bull [expletive].” VERIFY is not linking to the Facebook post in order to keep the crew member’s identity safe, but we have confirmed its authenticity.
Kolobaeva told VERIFY she is worried about the repercussions of posting content publicly to social media in order to dispel the disinformation, but she is revealing her true identity because of the tragedy in Ukraine.
“I'm in Russia, I'm scared, but I have to be brave … My own personal destiny doesn’t matter. The lives of Ukrainians matter,” she told VERIFY.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.