Russia's main TV channel, Perviy Kanal, began airing the first part of The Putin Interviews on June 19, a series of interviews with the Russian president by American filmmaker Oliver Stone. Many Russians tuned in to the series and, in the days since it aired, one scene has come under intense scrutiny. In this scene, Putin praises the recent Russian intervention against the Islamic State group in Syria as footage of Russian airstrikes plays onscreen. But according to several experts, this footage is really old and actually shows American attacks in Afghanistan.
Four-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone conducted numerous interviews with the Russian president over a two-year period. He turned footage from these interviews into a controversial four-part documentary, during which Putin shares his vision of the world and hammers home the Russian position on the Syrian conflict, the crisis in Ukraine, and diplomatic relationships with Europe and the United States.
But one scene in particular in the third part of the documentary seemed questionable to numerous researchers and social media users. In the 49th minute, Putin shows Stone a video on his cell phone and claims that it shows a Russian attack on the IS group in Syria.
“That's how our air forces are operating. These militants are running with arms, not just machine guns,” he says.
Since September 2015, Russia has been militarily engaged in Syria, supporting the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. But a man named Fedir Panasenko was one of the first to notice that the video shown by Putin looks just like another video of an American attack carried out in Afghanistan and first posted on YouTube in 2013. Panasenko revealed the similarity in a post on Facebook.
The footage of the American attack can also be found elsewhere on the internet. It was first posted in 2012 on the platform Military.com alongside a caption that says that the video was filmed from an Apache helicopter in 2009 and that airstrikes shown were aimed at Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
A group of Russian researchers from the Conflict Intelligence Team also compared the two videos. They created a short video showing the two pieces of footage playing one alongside another. The explosions happen at the same time and smoke moves across the screen in exactly the same way in the two videos.
The only difference is that in the video published on Military.com, you can hear men speaking in English. However, in the video Putin has on his phone, the pilots speak in Russian. The Russian video was also posted to YouTube under the title "MI 28N in Syria" [the Mi-28 is a Russian attack helicopter] in 2016 — well after the English version was posted.
The Russian government spokesman, quoted by the Russian-language website Meduza, said that the debate about this footage was “completely absurd” and denied that Putin could have shown a video of American airstrikes.
"Why would he have faked it?" asked Stone in an interview with Ruptly, the video agency of Russia Today, an international news broadcaster funded by the Russian state.