Since the discovery of dozens of Ukrainian bodies abandoned on April 2 in Boutcha (a suburb of kyiv) has aroused the turmoil of the international community, and Volodymyr Zelensky has denounced a “genocide”, Russia not only denies responsibility, but also accuses Ukraine of staging. Even if it means relying on arguments that are based on nothing.
These summon a report from the Ukrainian television channel, Espreso TV, since widely distributed on social networks. In this video, journalists follow Ukrainian soldiers patrolling a street in the town of Boutcha amid dozens of corpses lying on the ground or the sidewalk. An extremely shocking document, which could be considered as proof of a war crime, but which, according to Moscow, is part of the manipulation operation.
Three arguments were particularly put forward by Russia and were taken up on social networks by its defenders.
The first argues that, on a video of the town of Boutcha, one of the civilians presented as dead would raise his hand as the camera passed – proof that he was not dead, even that he was playing comedy. Analysis of the original video actually shows that the corpse in question does not move its arm as the camera of Ukrainian television journalists passes. He it is an optical effect caused by a stainor a drop of water, present on the windshield of the vehicle.
A second argument, still from this same Ukrainian report, suggests that we can see on the right rear view mirror of the car a corpse getting up after the passage of the journalists. Again, this is misleading. This is a movement caused by the deformation of the mirror glass, as demonstrated Accounts Twitter Hoax Eye, Where Star debunkers, verification specialists.
A third argument, which does not have its source in these images, circulates a lot: four days would have passed between the raising of the Russian troops, on March 30, and the distribution of the images of the bodies, on April 3. Four days during which the Ukrainian forces would have had time to stage a mass grave. A chronology contradicted at both ends: according to the findings of the correspondent of the World in Moscow, the Russian army television, Zvezda, was still showing Russian units “successfully containing the opposing forces on a line Hostomel-Boutcha-Ozera”, 1er April. However, the first videos of corpses scattered in the streets date from this same 1er April and were broadcast on a Telegram group of Irpine residents.
Russian attempt to discredit the evidence
Behind this profusion of fragile stories, there is a desire to deny as quickly as possible either Russian responsibility or the reality of the Boutcha massacre. The first elements of language from the Kremlin were thus broadcast on Sunday April 3 at the end of the afternoon on the official accounts of the Russian ministries of defense and foreign affairs, via Telegram and Twitter. “All the photos and videos published by the kyiv regime allegedly testifying to certain “crimes” committed by Russian forces in Bucha are just another provocation”formally challenges Moscow, citing “a new deception, a staged production”.
This is not the first time that Russia has used the set-up rhetoric. After the bombing of a Ukrainian hospital, Moscow had already acrobatically accused a pregnant woman in shock of actually being an actress. A classic Kremlin recipe. As Conspiracy Watch recalled, in 2013, during the civil war in Syria, Vladimir Putin was already using similar conspiracy theories to disempower the allied regime in Damascus.
The complacent relays of Moscow
The staging accusation also circulated through less official channels, including a since-deleted post on South Front, an English-language site managed by Moscow, which has found an audience among conspiracy theorists. It was unsurprisingly also taken up in French, by personalities accustomed to relaying Moscow’s propaganda since the start of the Russian offensive, such as the conspiratorial influencer Silvano Trotta, who talks to his 157,000 Telegram subscribers about “moving arm” ; Régis de Castelnau, a lawyer working in antivax protest spheres, for whom the Boutcha massacre “furiously looks like a staged” ; or even “@_ 2019_nCoV_-“, a conspiratorial account that appeared during the pandemic, which believes it sees a “Ukrainian zombie stand up, likely to give an interview to journalists”.
Ironically, some Russian insinuations are not compatible with each other: for example, how to reconcile the allegation that the massacre was actually committed by the Ukrainian regiment with neo-Nazi sympathies, Azov, with that according to which the littered bodies were actors pretending to be dead? But this narrative profusion does not prevent its propagators from achieving their objective: to confuse part of the Western population, and lead it to doubt everything, even and especially a war crime.