The evidence was “irrefutable,” the Russian defense ministry claimed: The US is supporting ISIS. The proof: a series of photos it posted on its social feeds.
The only problem: they’re fake.
In the posts — which have now been deleted — the Russian defense ministry claimed that the US refused to engage ISIS convoys fleeing the city of Abu Kamal in Syria on November 9. Instead, it said, American forces interfered with Russian air operations, allowing ISIS to recover and redeploy.
The ministry posted a number of aerial images that it claimed were of ISIS convoys, It said the US intervened to “use (ISIS) to promote American interests in Middle East.”
But none of the images are from Abu Kamal, and none are from November 9.
The images are consistent with a mix of screengrabs from a number of clearly identifiable videos. Most of them are Iraqi military aerial videos.
In one screengrab, the Russians added the caption: “ISIS automobile convoy leaves Abu Kamal for Syrian-Iraqi border.”
The original is consistent with a June 2016 Iraqi military video, which shows coalition airstrikes and Iraqi military forces attacking an ISIS convoy fleeing Falluja.
The Iraqi military says it killed 440 ISIS fighters and destroyed 688 of their vehicles in that operation; coalition airstrikes destroyed about 175 additional ISIS vehicles.
Another one is a consistent with a slightly edited screengrab from a 2015 promotional video for a gunship simulator video game.
Shortly after the Russian defense ministry posted the photos, social media users quickly identified the fakes.
A US Department of Defense spokesman said this incident was just the latest “episode” by the Russians.
“We find this behavior particularly disappointing and inconsistent with the spirit of the November 11 joint statement by the President of the United States and the President of the Russian Federation,” said Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway.
CNN has reached out to the Russian defense ministry for comment, but has not heard back.
A report from Russian state news agency TASS says that a civil service employee “erroneously attached wrong photo illustrations” to the defense ministry’s social media posts. At this time, TASS’s original report with the claims against the US is still posted, though the fake photos gave been taken down.
The defense ministry has since republished its original claims of US support of ISIS on its social media accounts, with new photos.
Coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon called those claims, “about as accurate as their air campaign.”