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Ukraine training exercise misrepresented as staged combat

Ukraine training exercise misrepresented as staged combat - Featured image

Author(s): Robert BARCA / Matus KRCMARIK / Rob Lever / AFP USA / AFP Slovakia

Social media posts claim a video of two camouflaged individuals dragging a man shows an attempt to stage footage of Ukrainian troops in combat. This is false; the clip was filmed by a center that offers military skills training for civilians.

“‘Ukrainian fighters are very brave and courageous. No one is abandoned,'” says a Facebook post published July 26, 2023. “And, oh, sorry, the camera person got into the shot, let’s do it again! Oscar-worthy actors serve in the AFU!”

The video shows two men dressed in combat gear apparently pulling an injured comrade to safety. A woman wearing a reflective vest and holding a camera appears in the background.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken August 14, 2023

The caption, which references the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), implies the video is evidence of an attempt to stage footage from the country’s war with Russia. Similar posts have spread in German, French, Polish, Slovak and Russian.

But the clip is not from live combat operations — it was uploaded by a center that offers training for civilians in Kremenchuk, a city in central Ukraine along the Dnieper River.

Clues on TikTok

The footage shared online bears the watermark of a Telegram channel called “The Military Theme Z,” where the video was posted July 25 with a Russian caption saying: “We are monitoring Ukrainian TikTok.”

A reverse image search of frames from the clip surfaced an identical video on Russian social network VKontakte — but with a different watermark referring to @yar0slav_yar0slav on TikTok.

The account published the video July 24 with a Ukrainian caption that says: “It is better to test yourself and really evaluate your strengths during training tasks.” The post (archived here) includes hashtags mentioning “Kremenchuk,” “education,” “Ukraine” and “dftg12.”

@yar0slav_yar0slav Краще випробувати себе та реально оцінити свої сили, під час навчальних задач…
#кременчук#вишкіл#україна#дфтг12♬ оригінальний звук – Ярослав

DTFG12 is a reference to Educational and Training Center 12, which says on social networks that it trains civilians in basic military skills.

“If you want peace, prepare for war!” the center says on Telegram, giving an address in Kremenchuk.

As of August 16, Kremenchuk was under Ukrainian control. The city has not been close to the front lines since the invasion, although a shopping mall was the target of a Russian attack in June 2022.

Footage, pictures from same event

Educational and Training Center 12 published the video and several related photos (archived here and here) July 24 on Facebook.

“The next test, after completing the 5-week Basic Military Training Course for Civilians, in the ranks of the NTC12,” one post caption says.

Screenshots taken August 8, 2023 from the video shared online (L) and the Facebook account of a Ukraine training center, with elements highlighted by AFP

The head of the center, Jaroslav Panasko, told AFP in an August 11 email that the video was taken during the final part of a five-week training course, as the Facebook post describes. The participants practiced pulling a wounded man out of a combat zone so they could stabilize him.

“In this case, our photographer got into the shot,” Panasko said.

He said last year the group set up a volunteer territorial defense organization “teaching civilians basic military skills — safe handling of weapons, infantry tactics, tactical medicine.” The regional military administration in Lviv, another part of Ukraine, published additional information about the efforts (archived here).

Authorities in October 2022 disbanded volunteer formations in the area, but Panasko said the center continued similar work in a different form.

“We work in the format of an NGO. We have no legal contacts with the Armed Forces, but we often cooperate at various events,” Panasko said.

AFP has debunked numerous false claims about the Russian invasion of Ukraine since the conflict began in February 2022.

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Originally published here.
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