Were these Ukrainians staging a fake battle scene? Nope, it’s a music video
Pro-Russian social media accounts have been widely circulating a video over the past few weeks that shows a man dressed as a Ukrainian soldier acting out a scene in front of a camera. These accounts have claimed this video is proof that people are staging scenes of the war in Ukraine. Turns out, however, the video was filmed during the shooting of a music video by a Ukrainian artist whose music represents the “pain of war”.
If you only have a minute
Since October 17, 2022, pro-Russian accounts on social media have been sharing two videos that show a camera filming a man who seems to be a Ukrainian soldier. According to these accounts, the video is new proof that the entire war in Ukraine has been staged.
Our team spoke to the man in the video, who is an actor. He explained that the sequence is actually from the set of a music video for a song by Ukrainian singer Anna Khanina. The actor played a Ukrainian soldier in the sequence.
Khanina says this song in particular is about “the pain of this war for all Ukrainians”.
The actor in the video published this same video on YouTube. In it, he gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the shoot.
Pro-Russian accounts have made a habit of claiming that the war in Ukraine is being staged.
The fact check, in detail
The two videos show a camera filming a man wearing a Ukrainian military uniform, complete with a Ukrainian badge, in a forest. Pro-Russian accounts on Facebook and Twitter have been circulating these videos widely since October 17, 2022. They say these videos offer proof that the entire war in Ukraine is just being staged.
One of the sequences shows the man walking slowly, the cameraman in front of him. It was widely shared, including in this tweet in English, which garnered more than 300 retweets and more than 60,000 views.
"Everything is staged in #Ukraine. Everything is fake, their claims are fake, fake narratives etc", reads the caption on the tweet.
The second image shows the same actor. This time, however, he is on his knees and holds his head in his hands, just in front of the camera.
“Ukrainian reservist doing some sort of acting for the camera?” reads a tweet featuring this video that garnered nearly 137,000 views and was shared more than 2,500 times.
"Clearly, the next fake news item is already being filmed. The title should be ‘psychological weapons/ Russian sonic weapons’", reads this tweet in German, which was shared more than 700 times.
However, if these videos do indeed show a set, the aim of the filming was not to produce images pretending to document the war in Ukraine.
There are a few clues in the video that can help us identify the context it was filmed in. First, there’s a TikTok logo on the screen as well as a username, "@user4775478401030".
If you type this username in the search bar on TikTok, then you’ll find an account that includes several videos, including a few published over the past few days (here and here).
Underneath one of these videos, one commenter explains, in Ukrainian, that the sequence shows "Petr Pavlovitch Sherekin – an actor and owner of a chain of hair salons [...] and practically a prototype of a video game character.”
If you type in the actor’s name, written in Ukrainian, into a search engine ("Петро Павлович Шерекин") then you’ll pull up several Russian cinema websites that mention him.
Filming a music video
You can also find the actor’s YouTube channel, which features a video that has a lot of similarities with the videos that have been circulating online in recent days. This video, published on October 14, is called "As filmed in the music video of singer Anna Khanina". The video’s description specifies this video is "behind-the-scenes – a look at the shooting process”.
In the video, Petr Sherekin wears the same military uniform and hat and carries the same weapons as in the videos shared over the past few days. The camera and the jacket worn by the cameraman also look similar. You can also see the same row of pine trees in the background of both of these videos, which makes it seem very likely that the videos circulated by pro-Russian accounts were actually filmed during the shooting of this same music video.
Our team reached out to actor Petr Sherekin, who told us more about the story behind these videos:
This video shows the filming of a music video by the excellent Ukrainian singer Anna Khanina. The song is called "Lullaby". It’s a song about the war happening right now in Ukraine. In this video, I play the role of a warrior who crosses war-torn Ukraine in the hopes of finding his wife and son and achieving victory.
Our team also reached out to Anna Khanina who also said that these videos were from the filming of the music video for the song "Lullaby" ("Колыбельная" in Russian), which was released on October 6. The music video is still in production, she said.
And it is no accident that the video features a Ukrainian soldier:
The song talks about the pain of the war for all Ukrainians, how women and children must face hunger and cold while waiting impatiently for the return of their husbands, brothers and fathers after the war. The song talks about the hope for victory and belief in their future.
Like many Ukrainian women, Anna Khanina lived through bombing and the horror of having her husband go to war. This song is shaped by her personal experience.
My husband wrote the words. This song and the video that goes along with it represent the reality. It shows what we are defending, what we are holding on to. It’s like the conversations I have at night with my son. The woman is comforting him while also comforting herself. She believes deeply that everything will be alright.
It’s this pain of war that actor Petr Sherekin is expressing in the video that has started circulating over the past few days. In it, he can be seen on his knees, crying. He told the FRANCE 24 Observers:
In this music video, there are several chapters: chapters of battle, of rest, of grief. In the clip in question, the man is standing there and has a severe pain in his head because of an injury.
The director told me: “I want you to show this pain, and it’s not just the pain of an injury. Show me the pain of war, the grief of war, the horror of war. Show all that in this scream. All that has to be shown through what you are screaming.”
The actor said that he was extremely surprised by the way this content has circulated in recent days:
When I woke up this morning, lots of news organisations started calling me and asking for my reaction. When I saw the clip, which just lasted a few seconds, on TikTok, it already had 2.5 million views. People started calling me and telling me that the video was being circulated as 'fake news'.
But I promise that they will not conquer us Ukrainians with their 'fake news', nor with their bombing. Once a rocket exploded and broke our windows but it didn’t scare us. You know why? Because we are Ukranians. Glory to Ukraine!
Since the very start of the war, pro-Russian accounts have been sharing videos to support the theory that the entire war in Ukraine has been staged. Recently, for example, social media users accused the media of using a staged video of injured people, even though the scene actually took place. Pro-Russian accounts have also fixated on a photo by British journalist Jeremy Bowen, falsely claiming that he was only pretending to be on the front lines.