6 December 2023
Fact checkMisleading

Misleading: Video shows missile drill in China; not Russian attack on Ukraine

The GIF is a clip from a 2017 CCTV video about China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force.

A tweet on Feb. 7 claimed that an animated GIF showing what appears to be a large-scale missile attack depicts a scene of Russia using “decisive fires and then exploits with manoeuvre,” a tactic allegedly employed during the 2014 hostilities in Ukraine.

The tweet has more than 110 likes and 27 retweets. It has also been shared in Dutch.

However, the claim is misleading. The GIF actually shows a military practice in China some years ago, not in Russia.

Image search indicates the GIF could have been made from a documentary about the Chinese military, which can be viewed on the Chinese government website.

The video was embedded in an article about the first five years of Xi Jinping’s leadership. The short GIF clip is identical to a part of its fifth episode about the military’s power and development.

The same video was also posted by the Central Communist Youth League of China (共青团中央) on Bilibili, a Chinese video-sharing platform, on Oct. 10, 2017.

Comparison of the GIF and the clip from the video posted in 2017 (at 4:26)

The watermark “CCTV 1” can be seen in the top left corner of the GIF. CCTV 1 is the primary channel of China Central Television, China’s state-owned TV station.

The video clip was also posted on a verified account of the Russian Ministry of Defense on Aug. 18, 2021 as an introduction to China’s participation in the International Army Games competition.

The missile launch footage appears for less than a second in the video montage.

The tweet was posted by the official account of the Russian Ministry of Defence on Aug. 18, 2021.
CCTV 1 logo appeared in the top left-hand corner of the GIF and the original video. The video clip from the Russian official Twitter account showed the launch of the rocket but without the CCTV watermark.

Further research led to another CCTV broadcast about the 2018 exercises called “Tianjian” (天剑) by the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force. The clip at 00:42 shows a missile launch that looks similar to the one posted in 2017.

An article by China’s state-run Global Times describes “Tianjian” as a training series consisting of “missile battles,” among other exercises. It has been conducted multiple times since 2015.

Renewed tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been intensifying since late January when Russia reportedly moved thousands of troops to its border with the neighboring country.

While Russia’s leadership has said they are withdrawing their forces from the border, other international leaders seem to be skeptical, saying they have not seen signs of a significant decrease in troops at the border.

In 2014, the tension between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government escalated into an armed conflict. Rocket attacks on Ukraine from pro-Russia forces during that time were widely reported.