Bellingcat: Geolocation once again disproves Russia's targeting claims in Syria
Analyzing videos of air strikes represented be the Russian Ministry of Defense on November 9, Bellingcat's research team has found out that Moscow partially distorts data on special operations in Syria.
"In just three days, Russian aircraft have carried out 137 sorties, targeting 448 "terrorist objects" throughout Syria, according to a Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) press briefing held by spokesperson Igor Konashenkov on November 9, 2015. Three airstrikes previously posted on the MoD's YouTube page were singled out by Konashenkov for closer examination. Given the Russian MoD's well-documented propensity for fabricating information, it's a worthwhile endeavor to verify the Russian MoD's version of events," Bellingcat said.
"The first video purports to show an airstrike on an "ammunition depot" in the governorate of Raqqa. The MoD implies that the strike occurred near al-Tabqa in the west of Raqqa Governorate. However, as has been the case dozens of times before, Russia incorrectly described the video's location in both the press conference and the video itself. The airstrike was geolocated 115 kilometers (km) away near al-Bab, which is in the governorate of Aleppo."
"The second video is described as showing an airstrike against an IS training camp in Idlib Governorate. The difficulty here is that there hasn't been an IS presence in Idlib since January 2014, when they were expelled by a coalition of rebel groups. Nonetheless, a Su-34 fighter jet "performed a pinpoint strike against the ammunition and weapon depot," according to Konashenkov. The attack was geolocated in Idlib Governorate as claimed by the Russian MoD.
Curiously, however, the video in the MoD press conference zooms out from an area south of Ma'saran (or "Масеран" on the map in the Russian MoD presentation), roughly 20 km away from the actual site of the attack," the report says.
"Finally, the third video that Konashenkov discusses also claims to show an attack on IS in Idlib, this time against a "strong point" containing a both a communication and command center and an ammunition depot. Geolocation of the strike places the airstrike not in Idlib but in Aleppo Governorate, near Sabiqiyah, where IS has no presence.
It's possible that the airstrike was carried out in order to aid Assad's forces fighting rebels in the area. The location of the video on the map in the Russian MoD presentation is also incorrect, presenting the attack as having taken place southwest of Ariha in Idlib Governorate, when, in fact, the attack took place in another governorate entirely, just less than 70 km away," Bellingcat's experts say.