During this week’s Victory Day celebrations in Moscow, the Kremlin displayed images of Soviet victims and veterans of the Second World War—and accidentally included photos of the American outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, who died five years before the war began.
But just like its effort to cover up the horrors of its war on Ukraine, the Kremlin is attempting to revise history, by editing the image out of online versions of Victory Day footage.
The image was initially broadcast live by state broadcaster Channel One on Monday, to a nationwide audience watching a concert commemorating Russia’s defeat of Nazi Germany. During the performance, the channel showed a backdrop of black-and-white photographs that were meant to depict veterans of the war.
But at one point during the show, an image of Bonnie and Clyde was displayed in a close-up shot. The image was quickly identified as the one used on the pair’s Wikipedia’s profile, which also informs readers that the couple were killed in an ambush by U.S. law enforcement in May 1934.
The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab (DFRL) compared the live footage with the online version of the concert that was later posted to the Channel One website and found that the latter was edited.
“Rather than displaying the close-up of the photo, it now only shows it from a distance,” Eto Buziashvili, a research associate at
Digital Forensic Research Lab, which studies disinformation on social media, wrote in an email. “The Bonnie and Clyde photograph, however, is still briefly visible.”
Just as they have ignored the multiple alleged war crimes being committed in Ukraine in recent months, almost no state-owned and pro-Kremlin outlets covered the incident.
Those who did used the same line they reserve for everything else that doesn’t fit the Kremlin’s narrative these days: The appearance of the photo was an act of “sabotage” meant to embarrass the state broadcaster.
“It is not the first time that official Russian agencies had used incorrectly sourced footage and presented it as legitimate,” Buziashvili said. “In 2017, the Russian Ministry of Defense published screengrabs from a video game, which it presented as ‘irrefutable evidence’ that the United States was colluding with the terrorist organization ISIS.”
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