A quick look into Russian bombings December 3 in eastern Syria
The Russian military officially announced that their withdrawal from Syria will begin next year, but for now, Russian bombing raids continue as does the controversy surrounding their targets. Recent Russian air strikes appear not only in an official Russian military video but allegedly in video taken by civilians on the ground. @DFRLab previously reported on Russia’s bombings in Syria and found evidence that Russia is not telling the full story.
Here is what we know about Russian bombings on December 3, 2017.
On December 3 (16:10 UTC) the Russian military released a YouTube video and a Facebook post regarding a long-range bomber raid in Syria. As with most of the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) public statements or posts, it briefly mentioned the mission, the supposed target, and units and military equipment involved. In this instance, no official statement appeared on the Russian MoD website. According to the post, on December 3 six Tu-22M3 (NATO reporting name: Backfire) long-range bombers from the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out a massed air strike on alleged terrorist positions south-east of Deir Ezzor village. The short passage accompanying the video on Facebook was the only official text on Russian social media.
In the official video, as is standard procedure, a Russian Tu-22M3 bomber appeared together with a Su-30 fighter jet (NATO reporting name: Flanker-C) that was providing aerial protection. Compared with other official videos recently posted by the Russian MoD, it lacks details with which we can geolocate the operation, similar to the video posted on November 26. The video was cropped right when the bombs began to fall in an apparent attempt to prevent details about the targets from being exposed. Judging by the only observable location in the video, the bombers were active in the vicinity (south-east) of Deir Ezzor.
On the same day (19:47 UTC) a post on Twitter by @Ivansidorenko1, claiming that Russia bombed the Al Qiţ‘ah / Al-Majawdeh Area. The video was low quality and provided little to no geolocation information.
A possible location of this video is on the left bank of the Euphrates, northwest of Al Qat’a village. The video suggests the bombs hit residential areas. Judging by the high number of smoke plumes in the video, the aerial bombing was not carried out by pin-point Su-24 bombers (NATO reporting name: Fencer).
The video was not traceable to other social media platforms and is thus most likely unique footage of the incident.
Locations of December 3 events pinpointed on a map.
The official videos published of Russian aerial attacks in Syria have become shorter and contain fewer details than before. The official statement on the December 3 bombings did not appear on the official website, even though the raid was amplified through Russian media outlets. There is no hard evidence of Russian bombers targeting the vicinity of Al Qiţ‘ah, nonetheless, the civilian video appears to be legitimate. The transparency of Russian military operations remains sparse, and recent activities only seem to suggest this trend is worsening.
@DFRLab will continue monitoring Russia’s military actions in Syria.
Lukas Andriukaitis is a Digital Forensic Research Associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (@DFRLab).
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