WASHINGTON – Did pro-Kremlin activists beam images of Russian tanks onto the facade of the White House to protest what they call Washington's efforts to prevent foreign leaders from traveling to Moscow to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany?
A YouTube video of this purported light show has notched hundreds of thousands of views after it was uploaded this week by a nationalist-oriented Russian film group, which has claimed credit for the prank.
It's unclear from the video itself whether the alleged prank is merely a ruse or whether the activists actually pulled off the stunt.
But the U.S. Secret Service, the federal agency tasked with protecting the president, is now investigating the authenticity of the footage.
"The Secret Service is aware of this alleged incident. Appropriate follow-up is being conducted at this time," Nicole Mainor, a spokeswoman for agency, told RFE/RL in an emailed comment.
The video was uploaded to YouTube on May 6 by a film production group called Set, or "Network," and had garnered more than 750,000 views on the site as of May 8.
It is prefaced with a text stating that U.S. President Barack Obama "has forbidden many world leaders" from visiting Moscow for the city's Victory Day parade on May 9 -- a clear reference to the fact that Western heads of state are skipping Russia's commemorations of the defeat of Nazi Germany in light of the Kremlin's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula last year and its backing for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
"If Barack doesn't go to Moscow['s] Victory Day Parade, the Parade will go to Barack!" the text accompanying the video reads.
With a soundtrack comprising one of the most famous Russian patriotic military marches, Farewell Of Slavyanka, the video proceeds to show footage of tanks and missiles parading across Red Square being beamed onto the face of the White House as bystanders mill about and film the spectacle with their smart phones.
WATCH: 'Russian Tanks In Washington'
The Russian website TJ Journal reports that the film group was founded by alumni of the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi, which gained notoriety for its anti-Western stunts and for hounding foreign diplomats and Russian opposition activists.
The YouTube video also provides a link to a website for a Russian patriotic film festival using a URL titled "vezhliviye tanky," or "polite tanks."
The title is an apparent reference to the phrase "polite people," a term used in Russia to refer to armed men who entered Crimea in February 2014 and seized government buildings, paving the way for the Kremlin's annexation of the peninsula. Russian President Vladimir Putin later admitted that the men were Russian troops.
TJ Journal notes that a member of the film festival's jury, Yury Degtyaryov, is linked to a March prank in which a light show was projected onto the facade of the U.S. embassy in Moscow.
Anastasia Melnik, a spokeswoman for the film group behind the alleged White House light show, neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the stunt portrayed in the video.
Contacted by RFE/RL on May 8, she directed inquiries to a statement on the group's website noting that "the video was shot in May of this year."
-- Carl Schreck