Social media and Russian sites are actively reposting a video which allegedly shows a separatist being buried alive in Ukraine. Russian Defense Ministry television station Zvezda announces: A video has appeared on the web showing unknown persons in camouflage presumably executing a DNR (Donetsk People’s republic) or LNR (Luhansk People’s Republic) militant on Ukrainian territory.”

Website screenshot Zvezda

Website screenshot Zvezda

The video Zvezda refers to first appeared on YouTube on June 20, 2016 but was later removed because it violated Youtube’s terms of service.

Someone calling himself Igor Vannishev was the first to post this video to the Russian social media site site VKontakte. The account had no other postings and was subsequently frozen.

The video was also posted on a YouTube channel called Na varti spokoyu (Peace watch) where it was the only video. However, in a few hours the site was blocked and the video removed.

The British tabloid the Daily Mail featured this story using screen shots from the video as did the Iran’s official international news network Press TV.

Upon closer examination, the video appears to be spliced together, some footage is clear, some blurry.  The difference in quality between various frames is apparent and makes one wonder how the footage was filmed. It is also unclear who the men are or that they are in fact Ukrainian military as they are not wearing Ukrainian uniforms or obvious insignia.

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1:12 minutes into the video we see a stick being thrown into the pit with the body of the alleged militant while two men continue shoveling earth.

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The stick continues to be visible for over a minute, until 2:57. It is also important to note that the pit appears to be quite deep. Suddenly the screen is blurred seemingly because someone has walked in front of the camera and literally three seconds later the stick is no longer visible and the hole is nearly filled. However, judging by the movements of the men shoveling, only a small amount of earth was moved.

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After 9 seconds the pit is already filled, the stick is no longer visible. It is not at all realistic that such a pit can be filled in 8-9 seconds.

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Despite the fact that the video has quite good sound, the alleged victim is completely silent, he does not shout, struggle or attempt to get out of the hole. His feet are loosely taped but he makes no attempt to stand up.

The footage appears to be edited and spliced, at the moment when one of the men passes in front of the camera one of the men digging holds the shovel in two different ways. Before the man passes in front of the camera (2:58 on the video) the man holds the shovel with his left hand on the bottom of the handle. After the man passes in front of the camera (2:59), the man digging is holding the shovel with his right hand on the bottom of the handle and the man shoveling is suddenly in a different position. In less than one second, this person shoveled earth into the pit, changed hand positions on the shovel handle, and shoveled  earth into the pit again.  It is practically impossible to do this in such a short time.

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There is also a difference in the brightness of the video before and after what appears to be an edit/splice. The sun is shining much brighter prior to the splice, after the splice there is practically no shadow in the video. This radical change occurs over the course of one second.

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Another aspect of the video that suggests that it was staged is the care with which one of the men shovels earth into the corner of the hole where the alleged victim’s head is (02:32-02:50. The man is shoveling earth into the edges of the pit, seemingly avoiding the area where the man’s head is. At the same time, the other side of the hole where the victim’s legs are is shoveled much quicker.

Burying people alive is one of the most common methods of psychological pressure used by Russian backed militants in the separatis t controlled territories of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. In 2014 RT journalist Graham Philips was featured in a video staging where he was buried alive just for fun.