4 December 2023

Misleading: These Weibo GIFs do not show Russia dropping a ‘small nuclear bomb’

A Chinese blogger posted images that have nothing to do with the Russian attack on Bakhmut, Ukraine. Annie Lab found no evidence of FAB-3000 dropped on the city.

A Weibo post on Feb. 28 claimed that Russian troops had dropped a FAB-3000 bomb in Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine, in the ongoing war.

The military blogger described the FAB-3000 as a “small nuclear bomb” and said the attack was reported by the news outlet Ukrainska Pravda.

The post included three animated GIFs showing explosions and building ruins. It also included a still photo presenting what appears to be a FAB-3000 bomb.

It has over 500 engagements as of this writing.

However, this claim is misleading. The three animated images are irrelevant to the alleged bombing because none of them shows Bakhmut.

Bakhmut, a city in Donbas, Ukraine, has been Russia’s focus of attack for more than eight months, witnessing some of the most brutal fighting since the invasion began over a year ago.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned in a March CNN interview that it would be an “open road” for Russia if Bakhmut falls.

First GIF shows a city 600 km away from Bakhmut

A rifleman watermark in the first image had a text in Russian, “НгП РАZVЕДКА”, which stands for “NGP Intelligence” in English.

Through keyword search, we found a Telegram channel with the same name. A 14-second video clip that looks like the source of the GIF was uploaded to this channel on Oct. 1, 2022.

A screenshot of the video that was posted to the Telegram channel.
A Telegram message provided further details about the location of the video.

A user on the Telegram channel suggested that the video was taken near Nikolaev, a city in southeastern Ukraine, which is more than 600 km away from Bakhmut.

We then found an article published by the Russian news portal Discover 24 reporting about the attack that featured a screen capture of the same video.

Second GIF shows Islamic State weaponry

This animated image was analyzed in a 2017 article by the Oryxspioenkop, a Dutch open-source intelligence and statistics website.

A screenshot of the Islamic State footage that appeared to be identical to the second Weibo GIF.

The Oryx article said the Islamic State released the said footage to demonstrate the power of tank-based Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED).

It said the blast was caused by a rocket-propelled grenade hitting a self-destructive VBIED named “T-55” in Deir ez-Zor, a city in Syria.

The IS flag shown in the original video has been covered by a clapperboard animation in the GIF in question.

The Islamic State flag logo in the original screenshot (left) has been covered up in the Weibo post (right)

Third GIF shows building ruins in Turkey

Through reverse image search, Annie Lab found an identical video on Instagram that tells us it was filmed in Antakya, the provincial capital of Hatay, in southern Turkey after the Feb. 6 deadly earthquakes.

It was credited to a photographer Naim Aydar, and we found a higher-resolution reel from his profile where we spotted a store sign that reads “Vestel.”

Video screenshot showing a store sign (left) and Google Maps street view (right).

We geolocated the image and identified the address, 11 Cumhuriyet Cd. in Antakya, by matching “Vestel” and an Apple logo with an image found through Google Maps street view.

A satellite image on Google Earth with the same address also shows the earthquake ruins in the area.

Last photo shows a museum display of FAB-3000

The last photo on the Weibo post shows a Soviet aircraft bomb with the printed name “FAB-3000 M-54” on its body.

The photo was posted on Wikimedia by a user named Апатинаити on April 20, 2014. According to its caption, the bomb was on display at the Aviation Museum in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Screenshots of the aircraft bomb photo on Wikimedia.

No evidence of FAB-3000 dropped on Bakhmut

A keyword search led to a detailed article in Chinese with the same claim that “the king of bombs” FAB-3000 was dropped on Bakhmut and Ukrainska Pravda reported it on Feb. 28.

However, Annie Lab could find only one related Ukrainska Pravda article published on Feb. 28, and it did not mention the FAB-3000 bomb. It was about a Facebook post from Ukraine’s Armed Forces saying that 550 Russian soldiers were killed by Ukrainian troops.

We also searched for other news reports on Bakhmut from February to April.

While we found articles saying Russia carried out airstrikes and missile strikes with a SU-34 aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, multiple launch rocket systems, attack helicopters, and 9M133 Kornet anti-tank laser-guided missile, among others, we could not find any that mentions FAB-3000.

We have reached out to the editors of Ukrainska Pravda on numerous occasions but did not receive a response. We will update our fact-check when we hear from the editors or have new information.