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Virtual Syria? Sharp-Eyed Russians Spot Video-Game Footage In State TV Report

Syria? Iraq? Afghanistan? No, it's Arma-3, available at a vendor near you...
Syria? Iraq? Afghanistan? No, it's Arma-3, available at a vendor near you...

As battlefield action shots go, the one shown on Russian state TV's flagship weekend news program was of exceptional quality: a short clip, seen through what appeared to be a sniper's scope, showing an armored vehicle in flames, destroyed ostensibly by Russian air power.

Included in a montage of video footage that aired on February 25, the clip was part of a segment illustrating the fate of Roman Filippov, the pilot who was shot down over Syria earlier this month and who has been honored by the Kremlin for his service. The entire segment was broadcast in connection with Defenders of the Fatherland Day, an annual patriotic holiday in Russia.

Except the clip, which lasted just a second, wasn't from Syria. Nor was it from Russian surveillance footage.

It was from the video game Arma-3, a fact that sharp-eyed TV watchers noticed quickly and sent ricocheting around Russian social media.

Producers at Voskresenskoye Vremya, the weekly Sunday night news program shown on Russia's largest and most influential state-run TV channel, apologized, and blamed an editor's oversight.

Writing on the Russian tech-and-gadget news site TJournal, one commentator theorized that there was nothing nefarious about the clip's insertion, but rather a reflection of the older age of Channel One's viewership, saying that whoever inserted the clip figured few had likely ever played a video game, never mind Arma-3.

While minor and mildly embarrassing at worst, the incident is the latest in a series of media mishaps featuring footage from video games, or other sources, being presented as something else.

Earlier this month, after a group of Russian mercenaries was hit by a massive U.S. bombardment, a widow of one of the dead Russians spoke to reporters from Current Time TV and others, showing video that she said proved that U.S. forces were collaborating with Islamic militants.

The video, which she said was sent to her by another war widow, turned out to be from another computer game called AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron.

And in November 2017, Russia's Defense Ministry sent out a news release that it said showed "irrefutable confirmation" that the United States was supporting Islamic militants.

An image from the video game AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron issued by the Defense Ministry.
An image from the video game AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron issued by the Defense Ministry.

Observers then also picked up on the fact that one of the still images shared by the ministry came from the same AC-130 Gunship video game.

Misplaced video has caught up other notables, as well. Last year, Oliver Stone, the Academy Award-winning director, was finishing up a documentary project about President Vladimir Putin when excerpts from the documentary were broadcast on state TV, showing Putin playing a video on a mobile phone for the filmmaker. The video, Putin said, showed Russian air units in Syria and what he said were "international terrorists" trying to cross the Turkish border into Syria.

Russian open-source researchers known as the Conflict Intelligence Team instead found that it matched video taken in 2013 of a U.S. Apache helicopter shooting at insurgents in Afghanistan.

The Kremlin denied the assertion it had shown Stone U.S. military, rather than Russian footage.

With reporting by Current Time TV
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