Debunked

Fresh round of fake videos claim the Bucha massacre was staged

Contrary to claims, these photos don’t prove that the Bucha massacre was staged.
Contrary to claims, these photos don’t prove that the Bucha massacre was staged. © Observers

Several hundred bodies of civilians were discovered in Bucha, Ukraine on April 3. Since the horrific discovery, pro-Russian accounts on Twitter have been circulating images that they say prove that these bodies were fake or that the massacre was staged by Ukrainians. But we investigated and, it turns out, these images were taken out of context. 

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  • On April 3, the bodies of civilians were discovered in Bucha, a town in the Kyiv region that had been occupied by the Russian army since February 27. Though Russia denies its involvement in these deaths, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has called it a "genocide" and the United Nations has launched several investigations into possible war crimes. 

  • Since the discovery, pro-Russian accounts on Twitter have been circulating several images, which they say prove that the bodies in Bucha are either fake or that the massacre was staged by Ukraine.  

  • One video that has been circulating shows plastic mannequins, another shows Ukrainian soldiers moving bodies and a third shows a Ukrainian woman who purportedly played the role of a dead person in Bucha. 

  • Our team uncovered the origin of these images. They were all taken out of context – none actually provide proof that the massacre in Bucha was faked. 

Ukrainian soldiers accused of moving bodies

A video that garnered more than 13,000 views was posted on Twitter on April 6 along with the caption, “What’s this about? Why are Ukrainian soldiers repositioning bodies like this?”

The video shows soldiers in Ukrainian uniforms dragging a body attached to a cable. The accounts that shared this video claimed that this video proved that the Ukrainian Army repositioned bodies to “stage” the Bucha massacre. 

Screengrab of a Tweet sharing this false information.
Screengrab of a Tweet sharing this false information. © Observateurs

To uncover the origin of this video, our team carried out a reverse image search (click here to find out how) and discovered the same images on the Associated Press website. This American news agency published them on April 2 and said that they were indeed taken in Bucha.  

But the caption on these AP photos contradicts the rumours on Twitter that the massacre was staged. “The Ukrainian soldiers, backed by a column of tanks and armoured vehicles, attached cables to the bodies and pulled them off the street, fearing they may be booby-trapped with explosive devices,” reads the text written by AP journalists.  

A mannequin placed to look like a body?

A video posted on Twitter on April 6 shows men in khaki clothes, which look like uniforms, putting tape on a mannequin. 

"After the fake #Covid_19 deaths ... check out the fake war dead,” wrote the author of this tweet, which garnered more than 16,000 views and 800 "likes".

Screengrab of a Tweet sharing this video of a mannequin.
Screengrab of a Tweet sharing this video of a mannequin. © Observers

The video was also shared on the French-language Telegram channel "Invaccinables," which regularly shares false information about the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, it turns out that this footage actually comes from a video posted on March 29 on TikTok by Russian actor Philippe Fedorchuk.

“Preparing a mannequin for a movie stunt!”, reads his post, indicating that it is a mannequin used on movie sets.

@icefil

Подготовка манекена к падению в кино!

♬ оригинальный звук - Филипп Федорчук

The actor regularly shares behind-the-scenes footage from his movies on TikTok and Instagram. His Instagram account says that was recently filming "Admirals of the District-2", a Russian series filmed in St Petersburg, as well as a series called "Conditional Cop 2", also filmed in St Petersburg.

Did a Ukrainian woman stage her death in Bucha?

Many pro-Russian accounts on Twitter have also been sharing two photos, one showing a Ukrainian woman, the other showing a body. 

These posts claim that these images were first shared on the Facebook account of a Ukrainian woman to announce that she had died in Bucha. However, the account then apparently posted a disclaimer saying that she hadn’t actually died at all. These pro-Russian accounts claim that this is proof that the two photos are part of a disinformation campaign meant to make it look like she had been killed by the Russian army. 

Screengrab of one of the tweets accusing this Ukrainian woman of having staged her death in Bucha.
Screengrab of one of the tweets accusing this Ukrainian woman of having staged her death in Bucha. © Observers

We found this woman’s Instagram account. These two photos were indeed shared on April 4. However, contrary to certain claims on Twitter, the photos weren’t shared to announce her death. It looks like the woman herself posted them, along with a caption in English, “Hello, world. My name is Nastia. I’m a Ukrainian. My photo is on the left. The photo on the right could have been me. Could have been any of us. Raped and killed by Russians just for being Ukrainian.” 

Therefore the two photos don’t show the same woman. 

Screengrab of the post from Instagram.
Screengrab of the post from Instagram. © Observers

Her post was meant to raise awareness about the massacre of civilians in Bucha. Many other people have shared similar posts on social media. They follow a similar format: they share a photo of themselves next to a photo of a victim of the massacre in Bucha along with a caption stating, “That could have been me.”

Here’s one example shared on Twitter on April 5, here’s another. So no, these posts aren’t about spreading disinformation, they are about showing solidarity and raising awareness of the horrors of the war.