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Posts Misrepresent Old Video of Missile Test as Russian Ships Visit Cuba

This article is available in both English and Español

Para leer en español, vea esta traducción de El Tiempo Latino.

Quick Take

Russian warships conducted simulated military exercises on their way to Cuba in June. But social media posts share clips from a 2018 Russian video of missile tests in the White Sea to claim the warships fired live missiles “off the coast of Florida” before arriving in Havana. A Department of Defense spokesperson said the claim is “not true.”

Full Story

A four-ship Russian convoy, including a military frigate and a nuclear-powered submarine, the Kazan, arrived in Cuba on June 12 for a five-day visit, CNN reported. Russian state media said that on the way to Cuba, the warships conducted military exercises “using computer simulation for naval targets, designating ship groupings of a simulated enemy,” CNN also reported.

But posts on social media shared clips of a years-old video to falsely claim the Russian ships fired live missiles “off the coast of Florida” on their way to Cuba.

A June 12 Instagram post by an account called packingpatriot.2 bears a caption that claims, “Russia is showing off its naval firepower right off the coast of Florida today thanks to Joe Biden and his useful idiots.”

The narrator on the post claims the Biden administration is “pushing us to the brink of World War III with their support of Ukraine.” He then shows a video of four missiles apparently launching from a ship through roiling smoke and into the sky. Those images are followed by a submarine on the surface of the water, then submerging, as Russian-speaking crew members are seen operating inside the ship. The text overlaid on the video says, “Russians showing off their firepower right off the coast of Florida.”

The post had received more than 6,800 likes as of June 14.

A similar Instagram post also shared on June 12 has text that claims, “Breaking[:] Russia conducting marine exercises with nuclear submarines just 66 miles off the coast of Florida…” That post also shows the video of the missiles blasting off and the Russian crew inside the submarine.

But a Google search of images from the Instagram posts shows that a longer version of the video was shared six years ago on YouTube with the title, “Russia’s Nuclear Submarine Successfully Test-Fires 4 Bulava intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.”

An image from that video also appeared in an article on the Indian news site The Week on May 24, 2018. That article reported, “As a warning to the western nations, and in particular the US, Russia test-fired four Bulava intercontinental ballistic missiles from the nuclear submarine Yuri Dolgoruky on May 22. Fired from the submarine in a submerged position from the White Sea, the missiles successfully hit targets on the Kura range in the Kamchatka Peninsula.”

An Associated Press story that appeared in the Navy Times on Oct. 14, 2019, also shows the image used on the Indian news site, and the caption reads: “In this photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site on Thursday, May 24, 2018, the Russian nuclear submarine Yuri Dolgoruky test-fires the Bulava missiles from the White Sea.”

So the video in the Instagram posts does not show Russian missiles being fired “off the coast of Florida” in June 2024. Rather, the video — provided by the Russian Ministry of Defense — shows missiles being fired by a different submarine in the White Sea toward Kamchatka in eastern Russia in 2018.

We asked the U.S. Department of Defense for a response to the social media claim that a Russian ship fired missiles near the Florida coast while en route to Cuba, and a spokesperson emailed a one-line reply: “That is not true.”

The Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov did fire a 21-gun salute as it arrived in Havana harbor, CNN reported.

U.S. officials told the New York Times that the Russian warships posed no threat and were not carrying nuclear weapons. The Department of Defense has been monitoring the movement of the ships through the Atlantic Ocean, a spokesperson told the Times. The Russian Ministry of Defense said the warships practiced locating targets and used precision missiles to simulate destroying those targets at distances of more than 350 miles, according to the Times.

CNN reported that U.S. officials said Russian ships traveled to Cuba every year between 2013 and 2020.

The Russian-Cuban alliance goes back further. In October 1962, an American U-2 spy plane captured images of nuclear missile sites being built by the then-Soviet Union in Cuba. Then-President John F. Kennedy placed a naval blockade around Cuba to prevent more Soviet supplies from arriving and demanded that the missiles be removed. The Americans and Soviets reached a deal in which the missiles were dismantled and the U.S. promised not to invade the island, ending the 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis.

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.


Associated Press. “Russia slates drills for nuclear forces.” 14 Oct 2019.

CNN. “Russian frigate receives 21 gun salute as it enters Havana harbor.” 12 Jun 2024.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. “Cuban Missile Crisis.” Accessed 13 Jun 2024.

Oppmann, Patrick, et al. “Russian ships arrive in Cuba as Cold War allies strengthen their ties.” CNN. 12 Jun 2024.

Sampson, Eve. “Russian Warships Enter Havana Harbor as Part of Planned Exercises.” New York Times. 12 Jun 2024.

The Week. “Russia’s nuclear submarine test fires four Bulava missiles.” 24 May 2018.

U.S. Department of Defense. Spokesperson. Email to FactCheck.org. 13 Jun 2024.

YouTube. “Russia’s Nuclear Submarine Successfully Test-Fires 4 Bulava intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.” 2018.