Ukraine: How a fake Russian TV report covered up a protest in Kherson
A report broadcast on March 7 by the Russian channel Vesti 92 shows a distribution of food to the residents of Kherson, a town in southern Ukraine occupied by the Russian army. But according to the town's residents, the footage shot on March 4 was actually staged and concealed one important detail: residents protesting the Russian occupation in front of the distribution trucks, as revealed by three amateur videos of the same scene.
If you only have a minute
- On March 7, Vesti 92, the Sevastopol branch of the television channel VGTRK, published a report about food distribution in southern Ukraine. According to the article accompanying the video, "Crimean soldiers delivered more than 140 tonnes of basic aid to the Kherson region".
- But the footage and sound in this video, which was shot on March 4, were carefully selected and manipulated to obscure what really happened at this food distribution site.
- Three videos taken by locals at the same time show that Kherson residents had gathered several metres from the distribution site to protest the Russian army's occupation of their city.
The verification in detail
"In the shops, there is nothing other than sweets. I had to queue up to buy two pieces of cheese and I paid an unthinkable price!"
On March 4, 2022, a team from the Russian state television station Vesti 92 visited Kherson, a town in southern Ukraine occupied by the Russian army since March 2. In a report posted on Youtube on March 7, they show men wearing uniforms from the Russian ministry of emergency situations and distributing food in Kherson's Freedom Square. In front of the camera, residents of the town explain that they are facing food shortages.
A fake report
A few things about this report caught our attention. The first was that despite the fact that the Russian army has occupied Kherson, the video shows no armed soldiers. Then, we listened closely to the sound.
There is one sound in the report that is repeated three times. So we studied the audio waves in the video and found that it included an extract that was edited in, three times in a row. Watch the video below to see what we mean.
Suppressing residents' opposition
Why did the regional branch of Vesti in Sevastopol manipulate the sound? We found the likely answer on social media, using three amateur videos published on March 4. In these videos, we recognised Freedom Square in Kherson, as well as several people who were interviewed in the Vesti 92 report, and even a man with a camera posing as a reporter. They were therefore shot during the same distribution on March 4.
But unlike the report, these videos provide a wide shot of the scene. We see armed Russian soldiers and, more importantly, Kherson residents who are being kept away from the distribution by the soldiers. In one of these videos, a man asks the crowd in Russian: "Guys, who would accept food from the occupier?" The crowd responds with boos.
We were able to talk to Vera (not her real name), a resident of Kherson, who told us what really happened:
Russian trucks arrived from Crimea with humanitarian aid and a Russian TV crew. They filmed a report in the main square of the town. One man tried to ask about the humanitarian aid, but we realised it was staged. Maybe the Russians thought that people would come out in numbers and beg for food. Fortunately that didn't happen.
Vera's account is confirmed by the three amateur videos that we watched. Vesti 92's edited version removed all audio and visual traces of the protest organised by residents of Kherson denouncing the occupation of their city. In a message published on March 4 on his Facebook account, the mayor of Kherson accused the Russian army of preventing Ukrainian humanitarian convoys from entering the city. And on March 7, another protest took place at the same Freedom Square. Kherson residents carrying Ukrainian flags stood up to the Russian soldiers and shouted: "Kherson is Ukraine!"