The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered a barrage of false claims on social media, including posts that purport to show a video of “crisis actors” portraying dead victims of the fighting. The video used in the posts is from a climate protest held in Vienna, Austria, weeks before the war in Ukraine began.
Since Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, there has been a flow of false and misleading claims about the war, as we’ve written. Some false claims have been pushed by Russian government officials in an effort to control the narrative.
The misinformation about the war includes claims that “crisis actors” have been used to stage incidents in Ukraine, including the aftermath of the Russian bombing of a Mariupol maternity hospital.
Such claims continue to spread on social media, including a viral video on Facebook that purports to show live people portraying dead Ukrainian victims of a Russian attack laid out in body bags.
But the video used in the post originated before the war began. It’s from a news broadcast of a climate protest held in Vienna, Austria.
In the bogus Facebook video — which has had more than 3.6 million views — a news reporter is seen speaking in front of rows of body bags.
While the reporter is speaking, the top of one of the body bags appears to be blown open by the wind. Viewers can see a person in the bag trying to hold down the top, while someone quickly rushes over to assist the person in covering themselves.
On Facebook, the post includes a Spanish-written caption, but the video has an English voice-over and chyron — a graphic overlay used to display text in a broadcast.
In the video, the chyron has been changed to read, “UKRAINIAN HEALTH MINISTRY: 57 DEAD, 169 HURT ACROSS UKRAINE AS RUSSIA LAUNCHES ATTACK.” The audio used in the video is talking about how many people had been killed in Ukraine due to the attack. The caption posted with the video reads, “Estos muertos son unos loquillos,” which in the context of the video translates to “these dead people are pretty weird.”
Facebook applied a sensitivity warning on the video, saying the post “may show violent or graphic content,” making the video seem more authentic to unsuspecting viewers.
But the claim and the doctored video are phony.
In the original news broadcast that aired on Feb. 4 — three weeks before the start of the Russian invasion — the chyron is written in German text and translates to “VIENNA: DEMO AGAINST CLIMATE POLICY.” The reporter in the original broadcast is also speaking German.
The English audio used in the altered video was taken from an NBC News broadcast on Feb. 24, the day Russia launched its attack.
As we said above, the original video, which is about a climate protest in Austria, was altered and used to push the false claim of “crisis actors” staging events in Ukraine.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
FactCheck.org. “FactChecking Claims About the Conflict in Ukraine.” FactCheck.org. Updated 16 Mar 2022.
Macaluso, Nora. “Social Media Posts Misrepresent Victims of Hospital Bombed in Mariupol.” FactCheck.org. 16 Mar 2022.
NBC News. “At least 57 dead and 169 hurt following Russian attack on Ukraine.” 24 Feb 2022.
OE24.at. “Wien: Demo gegen Klimapolitik.” 4 Feb 2022.
U.S. Department of State. Office of the spokesperson. “Russia’s Top Five Persistent Disinformation Narratives.” 20 Jan 2022.