As everyone has been able to see for several months, the Ukrainian conflict is as much a “physical” military conflict as it is an unbridled and paradoxically limited information war, since each side has banned the broadcasting of the opposing media, and can only influence its own opinion.
The latest example is an article published by the British Daily Mail on April 18th, following the (very real) bombings carried out by the Russian army on arms depots in the city of Lviv (Western Ukraine). The article is written by “journalists” Chris Jewers and Will Stewart. The title reads: “Chilling video shows Putin’s Tu-95 nuclear bombers flying near Ukrainian border as Russian rockets kill at least six in Lviv.”
There follows a video allegedly taken near Ukraine with the caption: “Vladimir Putin sent up his strategic bombers in the skies over Western Russia today amid huge pressure on the Kremlin over the sinking of the Moskva flagship in the Black Sea.” Under this video, there are also two archive photos showing the “strategic bombers” in question, one very blurred, the other in close-up.
However, it is not necessary to be a great aeronautical specialist to note that the aircraft in the video are not TU-95s. One can certainly recognize a TU-160 strategic bomber (NATO code “Blackjack”), preceded by an IL78 (NATO code name “Midas)”, a tanker version of the IL76, and accompanied by four fighters, probably Mig 31s.
Moreover, the flight formation adopted by the aircraft does not correspond to a combat mission—but is actually a photo of a fly-past, or more probably of the rehearsal of the fly-past, which took place on May 9th, for the “Victory Day,” commemorating the fall of the Third Reich and the end of the Second World War, as confirmed, if it were even necessary, by a photo taken on May 9, 2009, presenting more or less the same flight formation as in the video in question.
It is therefore very likely that this undated video was not taken near Ukraine either.
It is quite simply incredible to see such “information,” coming a priori from a video found on social media, being relayed thus by Western media. If we give the journalists the benefit of the doubt concerning their knowledge of the aircraft, there are however too many constructed and unfounded assertions in the article itself to believe that an error was made.
The photos of the aircraft presented are also questionable—like the video, they are neither sourced (“© Social Media” does not mean much), nor dated.
Finally, the journalists declare in the heading of the article that Putin had his strategic bombers take off in the West of Russia, close to Ukraine (unconfirmed information), without ever mentioning the fact that since the beginning of January 2022, about 2 to 3 times a week, the Americans send their strategic B-52 bombers, based in the United Kingdom, to fly over the European continent and turn back when they arrive close to the Russian or Belarusian borders. [These flights can be regularly observed].
It is therefore more necessary than ever to be wary of any information served up by one side or the other in this conflict, as the Western media are neither more neutral nor more reliable than those in Russia.
Alain Charret spent a little more than 25 years in the Air Force during which he served in various listening centers in France, but especially in Germany, before the fall of the USSR. He lives in Antibes.
Eric Denécé is a political scientist who is the Director of Centre Français de Recherche sur le Renseignement (CF2R), to which we are grateful for making the English version of this article possible. [Translated from the French by N. Dass).
Featured image: “Detail from “Women of Britain Come into the Factories,” Propaganda Poster, ca. 1940.