It was a dramatic video, widely shared when it appeared last Friday by Telegram channels sympathetic to Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
It is said to have shown a barrage of gunfire and shelling by Polish-speaking saboteurs a week earlier – on February 11 – attempting to blow up a chlorine tank near the town of Horlivka. Republic.
The DPR People’s Militia Press Service picked it up, claiming the saboteurs had been killed and the video of their bodies recovered.
However, the video file’s metadata shows a creation date of February 8, ten days before it was shared on Telegram, according to an analysis by DailyExpertNews. And three days before the alleged date of the attack.
The messaging platform stores metadata for the videos posted there and cannot be changed.
But that is not everything. Another piece of metadata – called a “pantry creator tool” – revealed that Adobe Premiere Pro was used to edit the video using various resources – called “ingredients” – from a separate repository.
“It appears to be a composed video, meaning it’s a collection of different elements, such as when you add audio to a video or build a collection of smaller clips, images, etc.,” said Givi Gigitashvili, research associate at The Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council.
“The ingredient file path of this particular video is named ‘2021-02-04 ВИДЕО-ЗАПИСЬ ДРГ(+).mp4’, which may indicate that some of the ingredients are from 2021,” he added.
The location of those and other video assets also has “2021” and “February 2” as project folder names, again suggesting that the original time frame is from last year.
Among these resources, also in the Pantry section of the metadata, is a filename “M72A5 LAW and AIPLAS live fire.mp4.”
As first noted by Eliot Higgins, founder and creative director of Bellingcat, the filename corresponds to a YouTube video of the same name, showing explosions and gunfire at a location in Finland.
DailyExpertNews asked Rob Maher, an audio forensics expert at Montana State University, to analyze the media. He compared the booming audio of one of the shots in the YouTube video to similar audio in the Telegram video.
“The order of the blasts is remarkably similar in timing,” concluded Maher. “For the particular tree I compared, the timing isn’t exactly identical, but it’s inexplicably similar.”
According to Maher, for the bangs in both videos to be as similar, “the geometric relationship between the artillery piece, target, and microphone should be the same” — meaning they’re in the exact same position in both videos.
If the geometry were different “the relative arrival time of the different boom sounds would be different” because the boom sound would propagate to the microphone at different rates.
“It seems quite unexpected and coincidental that those acoustic arrival times are so similar in these two ‘unrelated’ videos,” concluded Maher. “If the claim is that the separatists’ video contains edited sound, this could be an explanation.”
Maher’s findings are corroborated by other sound designers and experts on Twitter, such as Ciaran Walsh, who compared the spectral analysis of the explosions in the two videos and came to similar conclusions.
“I think there’s plenty of evidence that audio was added from that YouTube video,” Gigitashvili said.
It’s not the first time separatists have posted questionable videos on Telegram. A DailyExpertNews analysis of Friday’s video statements by the leaders of the DPR and the People’s Republic of Luhansk revealed that the footage had been shot 2 days earlier.