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Russian propaganda in action: analysing a video about pits for fallen soldiers

Russians continue to spread their fake news about the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Today, we are refuting one of these fake videos, which, unfortunately, has a huge number of shares in the Ukrainian segment of Facebook.

The wheels of Russian propaganda keep turning, generating new fakes about the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In our analysis, we present one recent video allegedly showing Ukrainian soldiers burying their fallen comrades in a forest pit. Unfortunately, it has already been shared over 15,000 times on the Ukrainian segment of Facebook.  


So, beware of the hand of Russian propagandists!

On January 20, the russian website ria novosti published an article entitled “Technology for arranging mass graves for Ukrainian Armed Forces fighters revealed.” Citing an anonymous source, it claimed to demonstrate some “methodological recommendations for the Armed Forces of Ukraine on organizing urgent burials of corpses in wartime.” That same night, other propaganda media outlets like moskovsky komsomolets and smi today also distributed the story.

“The Kyiv regime mainly buries Ukrainian soldiers, who died en masse during Russian strikes in the Special Military Operation, in mass graves of 100 people each,” the article reads, adding that brushwood is used “to arrange ‘temporary cemeteries’” (translation from the russian - Behind the News).   

In addition to outrageous statements about the use of 20-meter pits, branches and brushwood placed between the coffins, and ventilation systems to accelerate decomposition, the article claims that T-170 and T-130 tractor-bulldozers are regularly used to dig these mass graves.

The next day, between 17:00 and 18:00, the abovementioned video appeared on many russian Telegram channels and the X social network.

A careful review and analysis of the context indicate that this video is most probably blatant russian propaganda. 

1. Distribution channels 

If Ukrainians had initially uploaded the video, it would have spread on Ukrainian social media first, given its emotional content. Or it would have at least appeared simultaneously on both russian and Ukrainian pages. However, it only emerged on russian propaganda channels, entering the Ukrainian space a day later on January 22.  

The Ukrainian caption reads: “And these are the mobilized men who will be declared missing, whose relatives will never find them. They are in a pit somewhere in the forest, and their families will not receive compensation.” This was clearly created by Russians, and the author of the post simply translated it (see Illustration). Alongside such interpretations, propagandists claimed Ukrainian officials and commanders benefit financially from mass graves.

2. Ukrainian Flag and Balkenkreuz   

First, a tractor-bulldozer is shown. Then, a Ukrainian flag and World War II German Balkenkreuz (Wehrmacht insignia during World War II) suddenly, as if by accident, appear on the machine’s windshield. Really, weren’t we all expecting something? The video proceeds to show three soldiers, two of whom appear to arranging bodies in a pit while a third watches closely. Finally, the bulldozer driver covers the bodies with earth.  

3. Editing

Please note the rapid sequence spanning just 1:50 minutes: the tractor-bulldozer twice, the symbols twice, the body dumping twice, and the pit filling. The soldiers’ faces are masked and the quality of the video is rather poor.  

 4. Propaganda templates 

A similar propaganda video emerged last March showing an unknown figure in a Ukrainian uniform allegedly firing on a car with a woman and child. Propagandists employed the same yellow armbands (not green ones), a Ukrainian flag, masks and the Balkenkreuz cross. More details can be found in the GUR’s debunking (Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine). 

russian propagandists clearly have no ethical qualms about defaming soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and inflaming Ukrainian society using graphic emotional manipulation small logo

фактчекерка на всі крильця
Halyna Dolynna
Halyna Dolynna
editor of the English texts
01 / 01