Video of explosion in Luhansk Oblast misattributed to counteroffensive near Zaporizhzhia

By: Sam Doak
September 6 2023

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Video of explosion in Luhansk Oblast misattributed to counteroffensive near Zaporizhzhia


The Verdict False

This video was recorded hundreds of kilometers from Zaporizhzhia

Claim ID 8eda3e45


In early September 2023, Ukrainian forces breached the first of Russia's defensive lines in the country's south after fierce fighting near the southern town of Robotyne. Following the recapture of this settlement, Ukrainian troops have been slowly seeking to dislodge Russian defenders in the nearby area.

While Russian forces remain dug into further defensive positions, the ability of Ukrainian troops to overcome the first of its lines has spurred hopes among some for a breakthrough. Three months into the Ukrainian counteroffensive, during which visible progress has been slow, supporters of the country have reacted enthusiastically to this development on social media.

As supporters of Kyiv have celebrated the breach of Russia's defensive line, a video has been widely circulated on social media. Seemingly recorded from a drone, it shows a large explosion in an open area surrounded by forest. 

According to the social media users that have shared this clip, it shows a Russian ammunition storage site being destroyed in Southern Ukraine. In one viral post, a user on X claimed the footage was recorded during the "Destruction of the Russian ammunition warehouse in the Zaporizhzhia direction." A significant number of other users have repeated this claim, stating the events shown occurred in the general vicinity of Zaporizhzhia, a city roughly an hour and a half northeast of Robotyne.

Despite this clip being widely misattributed to the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south, Logically Facts has determined that it was filmed hundreds of kilometers away.

In fact

While a reverse image search proved fruitless, the mushroom cloud following the explosion in this clip is distinctive. Noting this, Logically Facts searched for footage using the keywords "explosion," "mushroom cloud," and the names of regions within Ukraine that have seen intense fighting in recent months. This process yielded coverage published by the Hindustan Times, which was uploaded to YouTube on August 21, 2023.

The Hindustan Times video is composed of the same footage as the currently viral clip and is captioned, "Ukrainian forces destroyed a formidable Russian 240-mm self-propelled mortar, the 2S4. The mortar was named 'Tulip' by its developers, Kyiv has said. The footage of the attack showed fireball and smoke after the assault."

While this coverage does not state the site of the explosion, the rest of the video is dedicated to news relating to fighting in the east of Ukraine. The towns of Bakhmut and Klishchiivka are explicitly stated, which narrowed the likely area.

As the explosion occurred in a distinctively shaped open field surrounded by dense forest, Logically Facts determined that the location shown is at the coordinates 49.013461, 38.166533, in Luhansk Oblast. This site is hundreds of kilometers from Zaporizhzhia and lies in the country's east, not the south. 

From available satellite imagery, the most recent of which is from October 2022, it does not appear that an ammunition depot existed at the location shown.

The verdict 

This clip was not recorded during Ukrainian operations in the south, as claimed. It was filmed in Luhansk Oblast and has been reported to show the destruction of a Russian self-propelled mortar, not an ammunition depot. This claim has therefore been marked as false. 

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