False subtitles added to Putin’s Ukraine war declaration video to suggest African states are next

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A video of Russian President Vladimir Putin addressing the press has been viewed thousands of times on Facebook posts alongside the claim that he has declared war on African countries – including Kenya and South Sudan – for commenting on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The claim is false; Putin's speech in Russian makes no mention of Africa. The clip was taken from his televised address on February 24, 2022, when he announced Russia's decision to invade Ukraine.

On February 27, 2022, this Facebook post shared a TikTok video of Putin speaking Russian. The caption reads: “Russia targets African Countries with missiles for talking about Russian Ukrainian War!!! Putin declare war on Kenya (sic).”

Purported subtitles in the clip, which has been viewed more than 300,000 times, claim that Putin said the following: “I have made a decision of a military operation. How can Kenya invade into our missions? Kenya has put itself in a war that it can't even shoot a single bullet. Bombing Kenya will only take few minutes for my military men. As from now we'll start sending our missiles to Nairobi so we can destruct Kenya (sic).”

A screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on March 2, 2022

Identical posts were shared on Facebook here and here.

Another Facebook post shared a TikTok video of the same speech by Putin alongside the claim that he had threatened South Sudan for backing Ukraine.

“I heard South Sudan wants to backup Ukraine. You have 24hrs to apologize, otherwise, lord knows (sic),” reads the subtitles of the video viewed more than 150,000 times.

The recording then goes on to include a video of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir saying “not because I was the one who started it but because I was the leader of the country, I have to apologise”.

A screenshot of the false South Sudan Facebook post, taken on March 3, 2022

However, both videos have been edited and incorrectly subtitled in English. The footage of Putin's speech comes from his televised announcement of his decision to invade Ukraine.

False subtitles

In the first video, Putin makes no mention of Kenya.

Instead, his words, translated, are: “... made the decision to conduct a special military operation. Whoever tries to obstruct us, let alone create a threat to our country and our people, must know that Russia's response will be immediate and will lead to consequences the likes of which you have never ..."

The claim about Kenya being a Putin target surfaced after a speech given by the country’s Ambassador to the UN, Martin Kimani, who criticised Russia’s recognition of two separatist regions in Ukraine days before the invasion.

Kimani’s speech was delivered on February 21, 2022, at an emergency Security Council session and was widely reported (see here, here and here). While some praised Kimani, others questioned Kenya’s position to comment on the matter.

Similar to the first video, Putin's speech does not offer any comments about South Sudan in the second clip shared on social media.

The excerpt of his speech that was falsely subtitled actually translates to: “... by the Kyiv regime. To this end, we will seek to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes ...”

Additionally, the insert of Kiir “apologising” to Putin has been taken out of context. The original video comes from an interview with Al Jazeera broadcast on July 9, 2016, in which Kiir talks about the peace situation in South Sudan.

AFP Fact Check debunked a similar post using Putin’s speech in a false claim about Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Putin’s address

Putin made his address on February 24, 2022, before unleashing a full-scale ground invasion and air assault on Ukrainian cities. The televised speech was reported widely (see here and here).

This week, the United Nations General Assembly voted against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and demanded that Moscow withdraw its military forces. Kenya was among the African countries that voted in favour of the resolution while South Sudan abstained.

As the war enters its second week, the latest reports indicate that on March 4, 2022, a fire at Europe’s largest nuclear plant in Ukraine was attributed to Russian shelling.

Ukraine-Russia conflict