No, viral photos do not show arsenal Niger 'received' from Russia

By: Rajini KG
August 31 2023

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No, viral photos do not show arsenal Niger 'received' from Russia


The Verdict False

Images of military weapons, aircrafts, and armored vehicles taken in 2014, 2015, and 2019 in different locations have been used to make false claims.

Claim ID 2a3949a9

What is the claim?

Four pictures of weapons and military equipment are circulating on social media with the claim that Russia sent the arsenal to Niger following the military coup last month. Niger's elected president Mohamed Bauzoum, commonly considered pro-West, was removed from power on July 26 by members of the presidential guard. The military takeover was condemned by several Western countries and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). While Russia has not openly supported the coup, pro-Kremlin accounts have been accused of circulating misinformation in Niger — a former colony of France. 

Against this backdrop, a user on X (formerly Twitter) shared the four images (archive here) with the caption, "Niger / To drive out France, Russia must be involved. Niger has just received heavy equipment from Russia. Important logistics have arrived in #Niamey and several M12-47-B type retaliatory planes. And armored vehicles." The first image shows a military aircraft; the second is of a military convoy; the third shows four rifles placed on a table; and the fourth is an image of military gear, shoes, and rifles lying on the ground. The post alone had received over 45,000 views at the time of publishing.

Screengrab of viral posts. (Source: X/@DelphineSankara, Facebook/Zafer Yilmaz)

However, the images are old and from different places. They don't show weapons sent to Niger.

What did we find?

Image 1

Through a reverse image search, we found that the first image — showing goods being loaded onto an aircraft — dates back to 2014. French Air and Space Force (Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace) had posted the original image on its official Facebook page on January 8, 2014. It was captioned in French, "Unloading a starter group of aircraft." The credit for the image was given to JL Burnet and France Air Force. By comparing the original image and viral image, we noticed that the Russian flag and Russian Land Force/Ground Force emblem were digitally added to the former next to the words F-RBAB on the aircraft. Also, the text on the vehicle carrying the goods is the same as in the viral image.

Comparison of the military aircraft in the viral image and the 2014 image.
(Source: X/@DelphineSankara, Facebook/Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace)

Image 2

We found the second image from the viral claim on the stock photo website, Alamy. Published on December 15, 2015, it was captioned, "Daily life of french soldiers of barkhane military operation in Mali (Africa) launch in 2013 against terrorism in the area. During 4 months, 32 soldiers live together in the desert." The image was attributed to Frederic Marie, a photojournalist. It is evident that a blue color logo on the first vehicle in the convoy was digitally edited and replaced with the Russian Land Force logo and shared on social media. Therefore, it confirms that the original photo was taken in Mali and is unrelated to Niger.

Military convoy in the viral post and the Alamy image. (Source: X/@DelphineSankara, Alamy)

Image 3

We came across the third image of four rifles on another stock photo website, Getty Images. The image was published on October 12, 2019. Its description read, "GREELEY, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 12: AR-15 rifles and other weapons are displayed on a table at a shooting range during the "Rod of Iron Freedom Festival" on October 12, 2019 in Greeley, Pennsylvania. The two-day event, which is organized by Kahr Arms/Tommy Gun Warehouse and Rod of Iron Ministries, has billed itself as a "second amendment rally and celebration of freedom, faith and family." Numerous speakers, vendors and displays celebrated guns and gun culture in America." The image was attributed to American photojournalist Spencer Platt. This establishes that this image is also old and not related to Niger.

Comparison of four rifles from the viral post and photo from Getty Images 
(Source: X/@DelphineSankara, Getty Images)

Image 4

The last image of the display of rifles, military gear, shoes, and other equipment was originally shared by Instagram user 'esydow13.' The account is run by one Eric Sydow, who sells rifles and military gear via the website "Ripcord Industries." He posted the viral image on January 21, 2019, on his Instagram page. We spot the same rifles, military helmets, and shoes in the same numbers that can be seen in the viral photo.

It should also be noted that neither the Russian government nor the military junta in the Republic of the Niger has released any statement on procuring military equipment from Russia. No credible news reports regarding this matter are publicly available.

The verdict

Old images from as early as 2014 taken on separate occasions have been misinterpreted to be from Niger. They are unrelated to the Niger military coup. Therefore, we rate this claim as false.

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