Fact-check: Viral mannequin video does not prove Bucha killings were staged

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Fact-check: Viral mannequin video does not prove Bucha killings were staged

The misleading video first appeared on Telegram but has since gained thousands of views.   —  

A viral video of a mannequin has falsely claimed to show proof that the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha were staged.

The misleading clip shows a prosthetic doll being dressed and prepared by two men in army-green khaki clothing.

Pro-Russian social media accounts initially shared the video on Telegram, but it soon spread online gaining thousands of views across Twitter and Facebook.

State television Russia 24 also aired the video on Thursday, falsely claiming that it proved that bodies seen on satellite images in Bucha were «staged».

A Euronews investigation has found that the footage was not filmed in Ukraine, but was actually from a Russian television set near St. Petersburg.

Russian citizens who worked on the TV set and can be seen in the video have also stated that the video has been taken out of context.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied allegations of war crimes following the discovery of human remains in Bucha, near Kyiv, as Moscow steps up efforts to control the narrative about the war in Ukraine.

What does the video show?

In the misleading footage, two people can be seen preparing a prosthetic doll next to a black car, on the pavement outside a building.

The video first appeared on Telegram alongside the caption “this is how the AFU [Armed Forces of Ukraine] prepares their staged videos».

Russia 24 meanwhile falsely suggested that Ukrainian soldiers were wrapping tape around the mannequin to «pass it off as a corpse».

Pro-Kremlin users have shared the clip across the messaging platform, supporting Russia’s claims that the bodies of victims in Bucha were staged after their forces had left the town.

But images shared with Euronews show that the video was actually filmed in Russia’s Leningrad region and does not show Ukrainian army personnel.

Nadezhda, an assistant director on a Russian television programme, says the video was actually filmed by a passer-by on 20 March near the Russian city of St Petersburg.


Fact-check: Viral mannequin video does not prove Bucha killings were staged

The prosthetic doll was being prepared for a balcony scene from a Russian television series.Euronews

The same stunt coordinator — wearing identical army-green khaki clothing — was pictured preparing another prosthetic doll in images from the film set.

The mannequin was being used for a simulation scene, where it falls from several stories onto a black car. The same vehicle is visible in the misleading, viral video.

«That’s us in Vsevolozhsk, shooting the fall from the window for our show on March 20th, and that’s our stunt director and his assistant getting Albertik ready for filming,» Nadezhda wrote on Facebook.

Open-source images on Yandex show that the film set was indeed located on Leningradskaya street in Vsevolozhsk in Russia’s Leningrad region.

Identifying markers on the building — such as the window design and building structure — can be seen in the images shared with Euronews.

The original footage from the Russian television set belongs to the state broadcaster that commissioned that production.


Fact-check: Viral mannequin video does not prove Bucha killings were staged

The Russian television series was filmed in Vsevolozhsk near St. Petersburg.Euronews via Yandex

‘My own grandmother has called me a national traitor’

Nadezhda told Euronews that she and her lawyers are working to refute the misleading video and have sought an apology from Russia 24 television.

«I think that the reason for the war in Ukraine is exactly the propaganda that the Russian TV channels, digital and print media are doing now,» Nadezhda said.

«This is exactly the reason why there is war in Ukraine now, I think», she added.

«The information being given [to Russian citizens] is one-sided, it has nothing to do with reality, it is as badly done as any fake.»

Nadezhda also claimed that she was banned on Telegram «straight away» after she commented and alerted other users about the video’s context.

Other colleagues — including the stunt coordinator — say they have also received death threats on social media.

«Unfortunately it appears 70% of the [Russian] people lack critical thinking, they take this video at face value and nothing can be done,» Nadezhda told Euronews.

«Our stunt coordinator is furious, he went to FSB [Russian Federal Security Service] to file an official complaint, but they didn’t take it.»

«Unfortunately, our team, as with 99 per cent of the Russian population, are afraid, they won’t help much,» Nadezhda added.

«My own grandmother has even called me a national traitor when I said that I am against the war.»

The viral, misleading video from St. Petersburg has shown new attempts by Russia to undermine and dismiss any allegations of war crimes in Ukraine.

Russian news outlet RIA Novosti has released videos of Ukrainian refugees seemingly absolving Russian forces of any crimes in Ukraine and instead, blaming the Azov battalion.

An investigation by MediaZona soon exposed that these videos were manufactured by Russian intelligence and targeted at a Russian audience.

Twitter has also removed or labelled several posts containing Russia’s denials of war crimes, saying that they had «violated the Twitter rules about abusive behaviour.»

Additional sources • Matthew Holroyd, Fola Olorunselu & Sasha Vakulina

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