Fictional Paris bombing video falsely linked to 2023 France riots

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on July 17, 2023 at 10:45
  • 3 min read
  • By AFP Thailand
Footage that appears to show Paris under attack by fighter jets has been viewed over a million times in Thai social media posts that falsely claim it shows scenes from the recent unrest in France sparked by the police killing of a teenager. However, it is a fictional video created by a French director that was shared online by Ukrainian officials in 2022 in a bid to urge European authorities to impose a no-fly zone over the war-torn country.

The 18-second video was shared on Twitter on July 3, 2023. It purports to show explosions at the Eiffel Tower, smoke billowing around surrounding buildings and several fighter jets flying over the French capital.

"France is crumbling. Is it because of the state or the public? People are out of jobs, homeless and rioting in many cities," reads the video's Thai language caption.

"(They're) burning trains, burning their towns, looting each other and even robbing tourists due to discontent with a particularly terrible police officer #France. The fires are also spreading to neighbouring countries," it adds.

Screenshot of the false Twitter post, captured on July 12, 2023

The video was posted here and here on Facebook where it has been viewed over 1.7 million times. It was also shared alongside a similar claim on TikTok.

The June 27 killing by a policeman of 17-year-old Nahel M. with Algerian roots during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb has sparked riots across France, rekindling long-standing accusations of systemic racism among security forces.

Cars and public buildings were burnt, businesses looted and youths clashed with police during the successive nights of rioting.

But the video has been shared in a false context.

Keyword and reverse image searches of keyframes on Google found a longer version of the video published by the Ukrainian parliament's official Twitter account on March 12, 2022, with a caption saying, "Today it's #Ukraine, tomorrow it will be the whole of #Europe. Russia will stop at nothing" (archived link).

The caption also asks, "Would the famous Eiffel Tower in #Paris or the Brandenburg Gate in #Berlin remain standing under endless bombing of Russian troops?"

Screenshot of the Twitter post published by the Ukraine Parliament, captured on July 14, 2023

The 45-second video ends with a series of texts including: "Just think it this were to happen in another European capital" and "Close the sky over Ukraine or give us air fighters."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged NATO and the United States to impose a no-fly zone over his country.

Fictional scenes

The clip is actually a fictional video created with special effects by Olias Barco, a French screenwriter, director and film producer based in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, according to a report published on March 14, 2022 by French newspaper Le Monde (archived links here and here).

Barco uploaded the video to his Instagram account here on March 11, 2022, but has since removed the video.

According to Le Monde, Barco said he created the video to "give the West a wake-up call". He added that the film is "about a possible future," not propaganda, as he believed the conflict in Ukraine could spread to other regions.

AFP previously debunked posts sharing the same video in a different false context in 2022 here.

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