State Media in Russia Caught Editing Footage to Hide Incendiary Cluster Bombs on Russian Jet in Syria
You can try to hide things, but normally once they find their way onto the internet, someone’s going to find a way to reveal any cover up attempts. Russia-owned RT was caught red-handed trying to cover up footage they posted that showed a Russian jet carrying a payload they don’t want other people to see.
As the Interpreter notes, Russia isn’t part of the International Convention on Cluster Weapons, but the practice of using cluster weapons in residential areas is prohibeted by the United Nations.
Russia’s state-owned RT news channel has been caught out in an act of self-censorship as they attempted to hide footage in one of their news reports that clearly shows cluster bombs loaded onto Russian Air Force jets in Syria.
Over the weekend several observers noticed that an RT video from the Hmeemeem airbase in Latakia, Syria, showed cluster bombs loaded onto Sukhoi Su-34 bombers before takeoff.
— Green lemon (@green_lemonnn) June 18, 2016
The text around the side of the bomb canisters clearly indicates that they are RBK-500 ZAB 2.5SM dispensers – which carry incendiary submunitions.
The Russian Ministry of Defense routinely denies using such weapons despite this not being the first time they have been documented in use (both in state television footage from the airbase and videos of their use over rebel-held towns).
— Mark (@markito0171) June 19, 2016
Today the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), a group of Russian investigative bloggers, noticed that the RT had edited the video, cutting to footage of the defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, meeting with military officials, instead of the bombs.
However by dragging the mouse along the video scrollbar, bringing up YouTube’s cached preview snapshots, one could still see the original footage at that timecode.
RT cuts incendiary cluster bombs footage from Syria airbase video, but you can't delete anything from the Internet:https://t.co/12mSDaWiYr
— CIT (en) (@CITeam_en) June 20, 2016
We tested this earlier this morning.
Here is the preview:
And here is what was seen when the video played at the same timecode:
But this afternoon, perhaps embarrassed by the attention this hamfisted edit attracted, RT appear to have restored the original footage:
RT offered this explanation:
The original video initially featured a close-up frame of a pilot. Shortly after publishing, that frame was cut out by an SMM editor out of concern for personnel safety. There was never any intention to censor the video. Upon reevaluation it was deemed that the frame did not pose any risks; it had since been restored and the video is up in its original cut.
This seems unlikely, as the pilot seen in this section of the video is wearing a helmet with the visor down, so there is little chance of him being identified based on the footage.