In the weeks leading up to and following a joint air campaign against Syrian chemical weapons facilities carried out by the U.S., U.K., and France, Russia has repeatedly attempted to gain control of the narrative through misleading statements and outright fabrications about the reasons for the strike and its outcomes. These brazen claims may seem surprising to those who understand that governments do lie, but assume they like to keep those lies based in enough reality to justify; but for those who are accustomed to following Russia’s foreign policy, it’s all been par for the course.
Here are a few examples of times Russia was recently caught misrepresenting the facts regarding the various ongoing conflicts in Syria.
Last week, Russia claimed Syria shot down 83 of 105 inbound missiles during the U.S., U.K., and French air strikes.
After a joint ballistic missile offensive mounted by the United States, United Kingdom and France destroyed three facilities that were allegedly integral to Syria’s chemical weapon infrastructure, the Russian military quickly claimed that the Soviet era missile defense systems employed by Bashar al Assad’s Syrian regime had successfully intercepted 71 of 105 inbound missiles, but then, a week later, Russian General Sergei Rudskoi inflated those claims to 83, adding that two more of the missiles failed and were captured.
According to the Defense Department, Syria fired two interceptors during the offensive, neither of which hit anything, followed by 40 more after their attack was over. Even if all 42 interceptors were actually fired during the missile strikes, nearly all of them would need to have somehow intercepted two missiles each to match the numbers touted by Rudskoi. Thus far, Russia has offered no evidence to support their claims whatsoever.
You can read more about General Sergei Rudskoi’s claims in the article: Narrative warfare: Russia now claims Syria intercepted 83 missiles, captured 2
Russian and Syrian forces claimed no chemical weapons were used, then prevented UN investigators from confirming.
Although Russia and Syria have both denied the use of chemical weapons against civilians inside rebel controlled territory in Syria, they barred UN investigators from accessing the scene of the alleged attack immediately after it occurred. Weeks later, after they finally granted investigators from the UN’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) access to the site, the security and reconnaissance team the UN tasked with scouting the location of the alleged April 7th chemical weapons attack came under small arms fire, forcing them to leave the city.
“It is our understanding the Russians may have visited the attack site,” the U.S. ambassador to the OPCW, Kenneth D. Ward, said. “We are concerned they may have tampered with it with the intent of thwarting the efforts of the O.P.C.W. fact-finding mission to conduct an effective investigation.”
You can read more about how the Russian government misrepresented denying the UN access to the site of the attack in the article: UN teams fired upon in Syrian controlled territory while attempting to investigate chemical attack
The day after the air strike, Russia claimed Syria “successfully countered” the inbound missiles with Soviet era defensive systems.
As images surfaced of the targets of the joint air offensive, they clearly showed the facilities had been utterly destroyed by the combination of French, British and American missiles. Nonetheless, Russia issued a series of statements claiming that the offensive had been a failure, and that the dated ballistic missile defenses Syria employed had “successfully countered” the attack.
The Syrian air defence [sic] systems, which are primarily the USSR-made AD systems, have successfully countered the air and naval strikes,” The Russian Ministry of Defense wrote in a statement. In total, 71 cruise missiles have been intercepted. The S-125, S-200, Buk, Kvadrat, and Osa Syrian AD systems were involved in repelling the attack.”
Russian news outlets then reported that Syrian President Bashar al Assad echoed those claims.
“Yesterday we saw American aggression. And we were able to repel it with Soviet missiles from the 70s,” Russian lawmaker Dmitry Sablin quoted Assad as saying after a meeting with Russian officials.
You can read more about how Russia attempted to convey the missile strike as an abject failure in the story: Despite evidence, Russia claims Syria ‘successfully countered’ Friday’s airstrikes
Long before the recent chemical weapons attack and punitive strike, Russia released a fabricated tale about an intercept between an American F-22 and a Russian Su-35.
The Russian Ministry of Defense released a barrage of statements to state-owned media outlets in December claiming that an American F-22 fighter was chased away from Russian bombing runs in Syria by the Kremlin’s advanced Su-35s fighter. The only problem was, the intercept never occurred, and U.S. Forces didn’t have any record of any F-22 flying in the vicinity of their story at any point in the recent past.
“There is no truth to this allegation. According to our flight logs for Nov 23, 2017, this alleged incident did not take place, nor has there been any instance where a Coalition aircraft crossed the river without first deconflicting with the Russians via the deconfliction phone line set up for this purpose.” CENTCOM’s statement read at the time.
Only days later, an actual intercept between an American F-22 and a Russian Su-35 did happen to occur, however… and it didn’t go the way Russia may have hoped. In Russia’s fictional recounting of such an interaction, a single Su-35 was so daunting a presence, it left the F-22 scrambling to return to U.S.-controlled air space. In December’s actual encounter, on the other hand, it was the Russian jets that backed down and returned to their own territory.
You can learn more about this intercept in the article: Russia lied about an F-22, Su-35 intercept, then a real one happened …
Russia claimed to have video proof of the U.S. supporting ISIS in Syria… until someone pointed out that the video was from a video game.
Lat November, the Russian Ministry of Defense took to Twitter to announce that they had “irrefutable evidence” of American forces providing air support to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“This is the irrefutable evidence that there is no struggle against terrorism as the whole global community believes. The US are actually covering the ISIS combat units to recover their combat capabilities, redeploy, and use them to promote the American interests in the Middle East,” The Russian Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter.
That image in particular caught the attention of a number of internet sleuths, like Elliot Higgins who promptly pointed out that the image is a poorly cropped shot from a YouTube video advertising a game called, “AC-130 Gunship Simulator – Convoy engagement.” You can even see a portion of the disclaimer written over the YouTube footage that says, “Development footage. This is a work in progress. All content subject to change.”
You can read more about Russia’s claims that the U.S. was supporting ISIS in the article: Russia’s ‘irrefutable’ evidence of US support for ISIS is a poorly cropped picture of a video game
Feature image courtesy of the Associated Press