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How Russia promoted the claim that Ukraine re-sold French howitzers for profit

Kremlin media amplified narrative until mainstream coverage on the risk of weapons smuggling allegedly gave it credence

Ukrainian troops using French anti-aircraft guns on a CAESAR howitzer wheeled chassis to attack Russian aircraft, June 8, 2022. (Source: Reuters/General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine)
A tweet from @R_DeCastelnau claiming Russia had captured French weaponry. (Source: R_DeCastelnau/archive)

Step 2 — Stir the conversation with a smattering of sarcasm

Screenshot of Uralvagonzavod’s sarcastic reply to de Castelnau on Telegram (Source: Telegram/archive)

Step 3 — Launch the media wave with non-existent “confirmations”

A composite image of Russian media stories claiming Russia obtained French Caesar systems. (Source: rentv/archive, top left; eadaily/archive, top right; lenta.ru/archive, middle left; rg.ru/archive, bottom right; rossaprimavera/archive, bottom left)

Step 4 — Cast doubt on any denials

Step 5 — Recycle old ‘evidence’ and inject with a dose of drama

Step 6 — Reinvigorate reports through foreign “independent sources”

Step 7 — Keep adapting it

Screenshot of an Event Registry query showing a timeline of Russian news articles about the BulgarianMilitary.com blog post. (Source: DFRLab via Event Registry)

Step 8 — Amplify until it appears to reach the mainstream media

A composite image of the Telegram channel MediaKiller (left) and Signal (right) publishing the same image. The joint image is highlighted in green boxes, and the image of the airsoft gun used in the ad is highlighted in pink. (Sources: MediaKiller/archive, left; Signal/archive, right; Airsoft Society/archive, bottom center)
Screenshots compare the Financial Times original (top) and edited (bottom) headlines. (Sources: Financial Times/archive, top; Financial Times/archive, bottom)



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@AtlanticCouncil's Digital Forensic Research Lab. Catalyzing a global network of digital forensic researchers, following conflicts in real time.