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Did Video Show Ukraine Combat Vehicle Camouflaged as a House?

Jan 30, 2024

A short video appearing to show a "house" moving through a field in Ukraine was shared widely on Twitter and Reddit on Monday, with captions claiming it was a camouflaged Ukrainian tank or another type of combat vehicle.

But as it drew a mix of responses, from admiration to ridicule to even accusations of a supposed "war crime" (as international laws prohibit masking of military objects and vehicles as civilian infrastructure), others questioned the authenticity of the footage.

The Ukraine-Russia conflict in the past 15 months provided no shortage of examples of battlefront ingenuity and technical innovation, including stories about inflatable decoy vehicles being deployed by both sides.

Newsweek Misinformation Watch looked into the video to see if Ukrainian forces did indeed mask one of their vehicles as a civilian home.

"I thought that the creativity of the Ukrainians in the art of camouflage would not shock me anymore..." a tweet from Intermarium 24 said on Monday, June 5, receiving more than 1.5 million views.

"Camouflage in #Ukrainian style.... Meanwhile #ruSSian'Z claim that they do not see counter-offensive," another user wrote.

🇺🇦 I thought that the creativity of the Ukrainians in the art of camouflage would not shock me anymore....#Ukraine #UkrainianArmy #Ukrainians #ukrainecounteroffensive #RussiaIsLosing #Russia #RussiaIsCollapsing #RussianArmy

Several other posts included the same 15-second clip, which has a watermark of a closed Telegram channel "Ukrcadet." Newsweek found the clip on said channel, posted on June 4.

"Ukrainian Military disguises an armored vehicle as a house," said a Reddit post with more than 23,000 upvotes, which was later archived by the moderators.

"I..but... is that a war crime?" one of the Reddit users commented, with another citing in response the Geneva Convention's Article 48, which states that all warring parties must distinguish between "civilian population and combatants."

But while allegations of war crimes have targeted both opposing sides throughout the conflict, most recently in the fallout of the Nova Kakhovka dam destruction, this viral footage does not fall under that category.

Newsweek found that the video does not show a camouflaged combat vehicle and in fact predates Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

A reverse image search of the clip led us to what appeared to be its source, a September 2020 news report on the Ukrainian TV channel "34 телеканал."

Other news reports from the same time period corroborate the story, detailing that the "house on wheels" was in fact a pet project of a farmer in the Dnipro region of Ukraine, who converted his old "Zaporozhets"—a Beetle-like Soviet-era mini—into a "real home," complete with a functioning stove and embroidered wall decorations.

"Local craftsman Mykola Deka noted that there were problems with the cutting of the 'Zaporozhets' during construction," the article notes. "So his brother lent a hand to connect the different parts. The motor was hidden from view, and the driver's seat was built into the floor. Cameras were installed, replacing the side mirrors."

Reporters caught up with Deka after Russia launched its invasion to see how he was faring. According to an article by Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, he made the decision to stay in Petrykivka, in eastern Ukraine, and continue with his art despite the threat of occupation.

Misleading claims and flagrant disinformation have blossomed in the digital fog of war surrounding the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with mislabeled or out-of-context videos and images becoming one of the more popular tools for propaganda agents.