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No, this viral video of ‘bombings’ wasn’t actually filmed in Russia

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The Ukrainians have intensified their bombing campaign on border towns in Russia in recent weeks. But a viral video said to show the aftermath of a recent Ukrainian strike on the Russian city of Belgorod actually shows nothing of the kind. The footage was filmed during protests in Kazakhstan two years ago.

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3 min

If you only have a minute…

  • A video showing burning cars was widely shared on social media with people claiming that it showed a road in Belgorod, Russia after a Ukrainian bombing. 
  • However, a reverse image search proved that this isn’t the real story behind this footage. It was first posted online two years ago and shows a road in Kazakhstan where protesters set cars on fire.

The fact-check, in detail

The video, which shows burned-out cars along the side of a road, garnered tens of thousands of views on social media. The accounts that shared it on X and Instagram claimed that it was filmed in Belgorod, a Russian city on the border with Ukraine, after air strikes carried out by the Ukrainian Army. “The centre of Belgorod, everything is happening as it should,” reads a post by a Ukrainian Instagram user from a week ago. The video got more than 1,800 likes. 

This is a screengrab of a video posted on Instagram on March 14, 2024 wrongly claiming that the footage shows the aftermath of a Ukrainian air strike on Belgorod, Russia.
This is a screengrab of a video posted on Instagram on March 14, 2024 wrongly claiming that the footage shows the aftermath of a Ukrainian air strike on Belgorod, Russia. © The Observers

However, a reverse image search (click here to check out our handy guide) reveals that the video has been taken out of context and actually pre-dates the war in Ukraine.

The video was shared by this account on the Russian social media site VKontakte in 2022. “Cars on fire in Almaty,” reads the caption, in Russian. The video was not filmed in Russia, but in Almaty, one of the biggest cities in Kazakhstan.

This is a screengrab of the amateur video posted way back in 2022 on the Russian social media site Vkontakte.
This is a screengrab of the amateur video posted way back in 2022 on the Russian social media site Vkontakte. © The Observers

This video was also shared on January 5 on X by Liveuamap, a news site with a mapping component. 

 

While this video in particular was filmed by an amateur, media outlets did cover the protests that took place in Almaty in January 2022. This report from the BBC about soldiers putting in a checkpoint to “restore order” shows the same main road from the video that has been circulating recently.

This is a screengrab of the amateur video where we’ve indicated the details that helped us establish that it had been filmed in Kazakhstan.
This is a screengrab of the amateur video where we’ve indicated the details that helped us establish that it had been filmed in Kazakhstan. © The Observers

This is a screengrab of a BBC report from January 2022 that shows the same main road that appears in the amateur video.
This is a screengrab of a BBC report from January 2022 that shows the same main road that appears in the amateur video. © The Observers

If you look closely, you’ll see that there are a number of details that appear in both the amateur video and the BBC report, including signs, a tunnel in the backdrop and trees on the right. 

People in Kazakhstan took to the streets en masse in January 2022 to protest a hike in fuel prices. More than 200 people died in clashes with the police and protesters ransacked a number of important buildings, including Almaty’s city hall. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev denounced what he said was an attempted coup d’état.  

While this video shows a different event in a different place, the Ukrainians have bombed Belgorod several times of late. The latest strike took place on March 17, the day of the Russian election, and killed two people in the town centre. Russian authorities have been encouraging people to evacuate the city since early January, a first for a town of this size within Russia. The deadliest bombing to date in Belgorod was on December 30, 2023. Twenty people were killed.

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