Video shows Russian fighter jets landing in South Africa in 2019, not 2023

As South Africa prepared to host the BRICS Summit 2023, a video of warplanes emerged online alongside claims that it showed Russian fighter jets landing in the country. But the claim has been shared out of context: the footage, while authentic, was taken in 2019 when two of Russia’s “White Swan” Tupolev Tu-160M strategic bombers paid a friendly visit to South Africa.

“What is this?” reads the caption on the clip that was published on Facebook on July 26, 2023 in Botswana.

The post, which has since been shared more than 3,600 times, contained what appeared to be a TV news report with the headline: “RUSSIAN ‘WHITE SWANS’ TOUCH DOWN IN SOUTH AFRICA IN SYMBOLIC VISIT.”

Screenshot showing the video that was posted out of context, taken on August 21, 2023

The clip shows a white aircraft landing in an airfield and a reporter holding a microphone, reporting live from the scene.

It bears the logo of Russia’s state broadcaster, RT.

In the comment section, some Facebook users appeared to believe the video was recent.

The same clip was shared elsewhere on Facebook in South Africa and on Twitter, which is being rebranded as "X".

“He is definitely coming for that bricks meeting….try him at your own risk (sic),” one user commented, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Amazing that while fighting a very very difficult war, the Russians are engaging countries all over the world in a way that seems to be winning them friends,” wrote another.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion (archive here) of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Leaders from BRICS nations - an association of emerging economies that seeks to assert its voice as a counterweight to Western dominance in global affairs – are holding a three-day summit in South Africa from August 22, 2023 (archived here).

The BRICS countries, which include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, represent a quarter of the global economy.

China’s President Xi Jinping, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and 50 other leaders will be hosted by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Johannesburg during the summit.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the meeting in person because he is being sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his role in the Ukraine war. South Africa is a signatory to the ICC.

The video shared online, however, does not show a Russian plane landing in South Africa in the lead-up to the BRICS summit.

Clip from 2019

The video has been shared out of context. In one of our previous debunks (archived here), we found that it has been online since 2019.

Using the video verification tool InVID-WeVerify to conduct reverse image searches on keyframes from the footage, AFP Fact Check found the original version (archived here) on the YouTube account of Russian state broadcaster RT. It was published on October 25, 2019.

“Russian nuclear bombers arrive in South Africa,” reads RT’s caption.

A similar video was posted on YouTube by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) a few days earlier (archived here).

“We cross live to the Waterkloof Airbase now where Moscow is landing two normal strategic fighter bombers,” reads SABC’s description of the 2019 broadcast.

“The aircrafts are set for military development in SA. One of the jets is called a blackjack bomber, it is the world's biggest military aircraft, and most sophisticated supersonic jet (sic).”

AFP also documented the 2019 landing of the Russian warplanes, which indeed took place at Air Force Base Waterkloof in Pretoria, South Africa.

A Russian Tupolev Tu-160 at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria, South Africa in 2019

At the time, a press statement (archived here) from the Russian Ministry of Defence said that the event was meant to be part of "the combat training of the flight personnel of the two countries."

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