Video shows Putin's face superimposed on exiled tycoon's body for anti-Kremlin film promo

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on September 16, 2022 at 09:48
  • Updated on September 16, 2022 at 09:56
  • 3 min read
  • By AFP Hong Kong
Footage that appears to show Russian President Vladimir Putin behind bars has surfaced in social media posts claiming he was arrested on terrorism charges. However, the clip has been doctored to superimpose Putin's face onto that of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oil tycoon who spent a decade in jail. The altered video was originally published to promote a documentary that accused Russian authorities of orchestrating a series of apartment block bombings in 1999.

"Breaking news: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced a coup in Russia and said Putin has been placed under house arrest," reads a simplified Chinese tweet posted on September 12.

The video, which has more than 70,000 views, appears to show Putin behind bars in a cage-like enclosure in a packed courtroom.

The clip features subtitles that say the Russian leader is facing charges for "planning acts of terrorism".

AFP found no evidence of a coup in Russia -- or that Putin had been arrested and tried in court in September.

A screenshot of the misleading post, taken on September 13, 2022

The video was also shared alongside a similar claim on Twitter and Gettr.

The Kremlin has been accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine since its invasion on February 24.

Moscow's invasion sparked the worst conflict in Europe for decades, and thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting.

Some social media users appeared to believe the footage genuinely showed Putin, although many pointed out he looked younger.

"This is Putin 30 years ago, [look at] his glare," one commented.

Another wrote: "That should be earlier footage of Putin".

'Clever montage'

A reverse image search found the same video posted on YouTube on February 14, 2012.

The video's description mentions a film called "The Assassination of Russia" and provides a link to the documentary, which was released in 2002.

An AFP article from 2012 explains that the video was in fact a "cleverly-edited montage" in which Putin's face was superimposed onto exiled tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The clip -- which went viral in Russia ahead of presidential elections in March 2012 -- was made to promote the documentary, which is based on a book that alleges Russian security services orchestrated a series of deadly apartment block bombings in 1999.

At one point in the video, the camera shows a DVD case that shows the documentary's cover sitting on a desk.

A DVD of "The Assassination of Russia" seen in the video (L) and the film's cover on its IMDb page (R)

The original footage was taken from "Khodorkovsky", a 2011 documentary about the former oligarch who was jailed in 2003 and spent a decade in prison for charges including fraud and tax evasion after clashing with Putin.

He now lives in exile in Britain and has become one of Putin's most prominent critics.

The documentary's IMBd page features various photos showing Khodorkovsky in court, which show him in a cage flanked by guards and wearing the same dark jacket and top as Putin appears to be wearing in the doctored footage.

Screenshot from a false post (L) and the original footage showing Khodorkovsky in court (R)

The IMBd page also shows photos of the same officials seen in the doctored footage.

Screenshot from a false post (L) and the original footage showing officials at Khodorkovsky's court case (R)

False claims that the video showed Putin on trial were previously debunked by fact-check organisation Vox Ukraine in May 2022.

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