Tuesday, April 16, 2024

These images from Bucha do not show ‘fake corpses’ staged by the Ukrainian army

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Images published on April 3 showed the bodies of more than a dozen civilians who had been killed in Bucha, a town near Kyiv that had been occupied by the Russian army. Some of the bodies had their hands tied and some were shot in the head. Since then, several Russian media outlets and pro-Russian social media accounts have published a video that claims to show evidence the corpses in this video were staged. The FRANCE 24 Observers team analysed its claims.

If you only have a minute On April 3, at least 21 bodies, appearing to be civilians, were found on a street in Bucha, and at least 410 civilians have been killed in the town. Bucha, in the Kyiv region, had been occupied by Russian forces since February 27. Several Russian media outlets and pro-Russian social media accounts have shared a video online that claims to prove that these bodies were fake and “staged” by Ukraine. They said that several clues shown in the videos provided evidence that the civilians lying on the roadside were still alive.  In fact, the low-quality video was edited together from a post by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence. Analysing the original video can help prove that the evidence cited by Russian media doesn’t stand up. Other footage taken in Bucha further demonstrates that the civilian bodies are genuine.The verification in detail”Ukraine is producing fakes to compromise Russian army?” On April 3, Russian state television channel Pervi Kanal, as well as Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, shared a video on Facebook and Twitter. 

The video, accumulating tens of thousands of views, was also picked up by pro-Russian accounts in French and English. They all claimed that this video proves that the civilian bodies found in Bucha after the departure of Russian troops were staged by the Ukrainian defence ministry.

Screenshot of one of the posts sharing this disinformation. © Observers

Finding the source of the videoThis supposed proof that the bodies found in Bucha were not actually killed comes from a video that was originally published on Twitter on April 2 by the Ukrainian ministry of defence. It shows a Ukrainian military convoy driving along a street in Bucha, passing by several bodies. 

According to the posts shared by Pervi Kanal and Polyanskiy, two details in the video prove that the people in the streets of Bucha were “actors”. 

First, they say that one of the bodies makes a hand movement ten seconds into the video, as the convoy passes by. Then, they say that, 48 seconds into the video, one of the civilians can be seen standing up in the car’s wing mirror. 

Screenshots of the video purporting to show a corpse making a hand movement. © Observers

Screenshots of the video purporting to show a corpse standing up after the convoy has passed. © Observers

But in reality, these two pieces of evidence depend on the poor quality of the video, which obscures details. We took a closer look at the original video, which was posted in higher quality by the Ukrainian ministry of defence, in order to disprove these claims. 

Misinterpreted evidenceWe were able to find out the supposed movement of a person’s hand is not that at all. In fact, the movement that appears in the video comes from a mark on the car’s windshield. The same mark can be seen at several points in the video.

Screenshots of the original video show a mark on the car’s windshield that briefly overlaps with the position of the body in the street. © Observers

Moreover, if you watch the same video in negative (with all the colours inverted), the difference between the mark on the windshield and the body becomes more clear. The Twitter account @AuroraIntel demonstrated this difference in a video.

Getting fed up of this “it’s a moving arm” bullsh….. it’s a raindrop on the windscreen, alongside an inverted channel version for more clarity. The whole arm moving thing is just ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/ZiuEX4rFWc

— Aurora Intel (@AuroraIntel) April 3, 2022

The second so-called indication that these bodies have been staged is also a visual misinterpretation. The higher-quality video makes it clear that the body that supposedly stands up after the car passes by is actually an optical effect due to the curvature of the side mirror. As the car moved farther away from the body, the same image distortion applies to the reflection of the body, but also of the surrounding buildings. 

Screenshots from the original video allow us to confirm that the body does not move. In fact, the reflection is distorted by the curvature of the side mirror. © Observers

It’s easier to see this visual effect in a slowed-down version of the video. The Twitter account @SPITFIREVA posted an excerpt in slow motion, confirming that the body does not move.

Here’s a slowed down video of the body in the wing-mirror, for use against those that think a mirror distortion is a moving body. pic.twitter.com/RK7FNrS0ko

— J S-A VA 🇬🇧 (@SPITFIREVA) April 3, 2022

Confirming with images taken from different anglesSince the original video was published on April 2, several media outlets have reported from the same location, notably Al-Jazeera and The Guardian.

Benjamin Strick, the director of investigations for the Centre for Information Resilience, compared images in these media reports to the April 2 video and found that each of these sources show exactly the same bodies lying in the same locations and positions. This verification makes the possibility of staging this scene with actors even more remote.

Zelensky has accused the Russian army of committing a “genocide” in Bucha. Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s spokesman rejected the accusations, citing “signs of video forgery and various fakes”. The UN human rights chief said she was “horrified” by the killings, referring to “possible war crimes”.

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