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10 Apr, 2018 22:36

Debunked: How VoA journalist pushed fake news story on ‘Russian tanks crossing into Ukraine’

Debunked: How VoA journalist pushed fake news story on ‘Russian tanks crossing into Ukraine’

The easily-verifiable false claim by Voice of America journalist that Russian tanks were filmed entering Ukraine was shared thousands of times before being debunked. The journalist, however, refused to issue a retraction.

“Russian tanks passing into #Ukraine - this video taken yesterday, April 7, in a village in Rostov region next to the border between the two countries. Locals say this was a second convoy,” Fatima Tlisova, who works for the Russian service of the US government-funded broadcaster, tweeted on April 8.

Tlisova did not reveal her source for the undated video, which showed several armored vehicles moving through a nondescript village. Nonetheless, despite flimsy evidence to back up the accusation of a foreign invasion, Twitter went into overdrive. Although Tlisova herself has fewer than 5,000 followers on the social network, the message was shared over 2,200 times in a matter of hours.

“How about another round of European sanctions on Putin cronies each time a column of Russian tanks is spotted rolling into #Ukraine? That would help bring an end to this madness,” tweeted Maxim Tucker, a former journalist and current employee of the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundation.

“There should be consequences for any escalation in Ukraine,” boomed former US ambassador to the OSCE Daniel Baer, adding that Vladimir Putin has thrown caution to the wind after already being “in the doghouse” over the alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal.

The video was also reposted without disclaimers by several  Ukrainian news outlets. 

Only then did the fact-checkers roll in.

Twitter user @obretix, who specializes in analyzing satellite images, matched the rooftops of the houses featured in the footage to the village of Petrovka, located some 40 kilometers from the Russian-Ukrainian border.

This was quickly verified, even by Western sources such as the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, and Aric Toler of Bellingcat, the open-source research group that has traditionally been hostile to Moscow’s depiction of its actions on the Ukrainian border.


RT Digital’s Verification Unit conducted its own independent inquiry into the original footage and also pinpointed the location of the convoy to the village of Petrovka, north of Rostov-on-Don. By matching the satellite imagery to the footage, it was easy enough for the team to determine that the military vehicles were moving south, in the opposite direction of the closest border with Ukraine.


For her part, Tlisova refused to issue a retraction, stating in a series of additional tweets that the new information was an “update,” even as it completely changed the substance of the story.

She then complained about personal attacks in direct messages sent to her, claiming that “the trolls are deployed again.”