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France 24
France 24

These videos do not show clashes between the Wagner Group and Russian forces

False images of clashes between the Wagner militia and Russian forces were shared on social networks shortly after the start of the armed rebellion initiated by Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin against the military command. © Observers

In the aftermath of the armed rebellion attempt by Yevgeny Prigozhin's Wagner mercenary group against the Russian army command on Saturday June 24, people began sharing images online purporting to show the two sides fighting. But at least two of these videos were taken from the video game Arma 3 – and it's not the first time this military video game has been used to spread misinformation.

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  • One video shows a plane launching missiles. Although it was presented as a Russian plane targeting Wagner forces, the video was made by a content creator who uses the game Arma 3 to stage military scenes. 
  • A second video purports to show a fighter jet firing missiles. This video was also created using Arma 3. 

A barrage of missiles on a Wagner camp?

video posted on Twitter on June 24, the day after the first clashes between Yevgeny Prigozhin's paramilitary Wagner Group and Russian forces, shows a fighter jet launching a barrage of missiles before being targeted itself by projectiles. The caption on the video reads: "WAR IN RUSSIA  Russian Air Force Engaging Wagner PMC Ground Troops."

The tweet has been viewed nearly 200,000 times.

A tweet shared on June 25 claims to show a Russian plane fighting Wagner troops. Screenshot taken on June 26 by the FRANCE 24 Observers team. © Twitter / Pintu Mandal

But this aerial showdown never really happened.

We conducted a reverse image search using the Invid WeVerify tool (click here to find out how) and found the video's origins. The first seconds of this longer video show the same manoeuvres of the fighter plane and missiles. 

The video was originally published in January 2021 by a YouTube channel that describes itself as: "Creating modern cinematic military films using Arma 3 and DCS as the engine to create the stories and simulations."

The caption of the fighter plane video says, "I love to make these simulation videos for you and I am happy that you all like them a lot! The graphics of Arma are very good, it almost looks like in real life. Rather simulations than real war!"

Arma 3 is a military simulation video game developed by Czech company Bohemia Interactive.

A plane bombing strategic targets before being shot down?

In a second video published here and here on June 25, with a total of more than 600,000 views on Twitter, a similar fighter jet can be seen launching several projectiles before being targeted and destroyed by a missile.

A tweet published June 25 claims to show a fight between a Russian army plane and Wagner troops. Screenshot taken on June 26 by the FRANCE 24 Observers team. © Twitter / For Justice

This time, we found the original video by searching the keywords "Russia", "air force", "missiles" and "video game" on Google. The video was first published on YouTube in March 2023. The channel that posted it says: "Our channel is a virtual game simulation."

As we explain in the video below, the game Arma 3 enables "modding", where players can customise elements of the game and recreate the battle scenes they want. Videos of Arma 3 gameplay are often reposted by social media accounts that present the scenes as real footage of war. 

The FRANCE 24 Observers team has identified several examples of Arma 3 captures being shared as if they were real footage throughout the war in Ukraine

The game has also been used to share false information on conflicts in Mali or Sudan.

Arma 3: This video game has been used to spread disinformation about the Ukraine war. © Observers

Several Russian helicopters and a plane were shot down by Wagner

There have, however, been several confirmed images of the aftermath of clashes between the Russian army and the Wagner Group after their failed mutiny. The night of June 23, Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner militia captured the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, a major military command centre, after accusing the Russian army of carrying out a deadly attack on its men. Wagner then took the city of Voronezh, 500 km from Moscow. An armed convoy made it within 200 km of Moscow before aborting the rebellion.

The Wagner Group shot down six Russian helicopters, a plane and several armoured vehicles, according to Oryx, a defence analysis site based on open-source intelligence. One technical vehicle was destroyed on the Wagner side. Thirteen to 20 Russian troops were killed in the clashes, according to Russian bloggers quoted by Le Monde

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