Internet Spots Luhansk Militants′ ‘Battlefield 3’ Fakes

Who knew pro-Russian militants were that into video games? Image by Ben Andreas Harding on Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Who knew pro-Russian militants were that into video games? Image by Ben Andreas Harding on Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

On July 22, the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine released what appeared to be a shocking video: a Stinger, an American-made Man-Portable Air-Defense System (MANPADS), was found in the Luhansk Airport. The video shows LNR militants inspecting what looks like a weapons cache, with close-up shots of the various arms and storage boxes with English-language inscriptions on them.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti published an article on the same day declaring that a number of American weapons had been found at the airport (currently under insurgent control), quoting the Luhansk pro-Russian militants on their unexpected findings.

It would be a scandal of monumental proportions if not for the fact that, as revealed by keen-eyed Russian and Ukrainian bloggers and social media users, none of this was real.

Playing up the scandalous “discovery,” the self-declared republic’s chief investigator Leonid Tkachenko was so outraged he said LNR officials had immediately contacted representatives of the conflict watchdog group Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to inform them of the findings.

As the video started to make the rounds online, many users quickly noticed that the “Stinger” launcher had a few very basic errors—including the English words printed onto its arms.

The dunces “found some Stingers.” They wrote “TRACKING RAINER” on the tube, it should be “TRACKING TRAINER.”


Usually, these discoveries would be the final chapter to this story: a ham-fisted attempt to show American “weapons” shipped to help Ukraine, with funny spelling errors. But as gaming blogger Anton Logvinov discovered, there was an extra layer of absurdity to the story, in which life imitated art.

А теперь главное — знаете, откуда взялся Rainer? Из Battlefield 3. Именно изображение из этой игры вылезает первым при запросе Stinger в Google — картинка ведет на IGN.
Видимо, DICE намеренно искажали надписи, как и некоторые детали, потому что у них нет лицензий на вооружение.

And now the most important thing – do you know, where they got the “Rainer” from? From [the video game] Battlefield 3. That exact image from the game comes up first when you search for “Stinger” on Google image search, coming from IGN [a popular gaming website].
Apparently, DICE [the development agency of Battlefield 3] deliberately distorted the inscription, along with some other details, because they do not have the licenses to use these weapons [in the game].

Though it may not be your very first result on Google Image Search, you will see the aforementioned “RAINER” model of the Stinger come up among the top results.

The crux of the story, as Baudrillard would have been thrilled to conclude, was that the fake Stinger in the LNR video turned out to be modeled after an inaccurate virtual model of the gun. As you could imagine, the discovery led to a deluge of mirth and jokes among Russian and Ukrainian users, underscored, of course, by countless screenshots from video games.

The Cyborgs [nickname for the Ukrainian fighters who defended the Donetsk Airport] leave the Donetsk Airport for Peski.

Look, the “Stinger” is a fake! [Image caption: “Motorola [pro-Russian rebel commander] captures a Polish mercenary,” depicting a scene from the Polish-made game The Witcher.]

And here is a fighter from a volunteer battalion shooting down an OSCE drone.

But perhaps Battlefield 3 was not the only artistic influence on the fake Stinger launcher. According to one eagle-eyed social media user, the serial number on the found “Stinger” is very similar to the model in another video game, Operation Flashpoint: Red River.

While the incident with the “shocking discovery” of “US weapons” in Luhansk airport is cause for laughter and humorous jibes, it also underscores a more sobering point about the information war: that those fighting for control of the information space are perfectly willing to bend and distort reality to create the appropriate framing for their claims and to sow doubts in the minds of media consumers and Internet users. All that remains for the public, then, is to keep being skeptical, to question what they see, and to think critically when faced with things like virtual guns in “real” videos, themselves a perfect metaphor for information manipulation.


  • […] by Aric Toler · comments (0) Donate · Share this: twitter facebook reddit […]

  • Joe Morton

    Hey Toler you failed grad student turned NATO propagandist punk, go on and explain to us how that ‘Ukrainian National Guardsman’ speaking fluent Italian was just a Ukrainian who came back from Italy to defend his motherland, or those ‘Ukrainians’ outside Slavyansk in a video who couldn’t speak Russian but sure could stammer in Polish accented English.

    Or better yet, tell us like that b-ts–t crazy old lady shill Catherine A. Fitzpatrick aka Prokofy Dude Neva in Second Life that ‘out of my face’ guy in Mariupol was a Russian plant who just happened to sneak past the Azov battalion checkpoints in the city and inexplicably got away, what with that Canadian Ontario or northeastern U.S. accent of his (and he doesn’t look like Chris ‘Swampy’ Garrett at all, to boot’.

    So yeah, there were Italian, Polish, and possibly Canuck or American mercs fighting for Kiev in Ukraine. Own it you NATO Riga Info Excellence Center dolts reading this and sponging off this American’s tax dollars. One of these days somebody’s gonna pull a James O’Keefe on ya’ll and walk into your Warsaw merc recruiting center and talk about how they really wanna fight for Ukraine and make lotsa money with a hidden cam. Then try to explain THAT away like Planned Parenthood, bitches.

    We’ll see the U.S. sat pics of that ‘Russian BUK’ E-LIE-alot Higgins talks about so much when hell freezes over. Just accept the plausibility of the Rooskies driving all over Lugansk and Donetsk with an uncovered missile launcher missing a rocket for SBU spies and the whole world to see, on the silliest route back to Russia and past the front lines of Lugansk fighting possible.

  • Joe Morton
    Italian merc in Ukraine
    Polish mercs at Slavyansk
    Out of my face guy — but there are no NATO country mercs in Donbass!

  • furd burfle

    Oh the significance of it all….

  • Rudy

    Mr. Joe,
    It is not unthinkable that immigrated Ukrainians are returning to Ukraine, to fight off the rebels.

    Soon Russia needs to make clear, in the UN security council, where it stands.
    Will Russia veto the resolution, brought in by Malaysia, regarding the shooting down of the civil airplane MH17?

    I am sure Russia will veto and indirectly show their involvement in downing this airplane.

    Russia is sending a constant mix of facts and de-information through their channels, like RT.
    Holding-on to so called facts, till proven different and the “fact” disappears.
    Nice samples of this are;
    – The shooting down of the MH17 by a Ukraine fighter
    – Mass graves found by the rebels
    – etc.

    You are making yourself a joke

    • Joe Morton

      ‘Rudy’ — glad to see SBU is picking better English speaking trolls. Or maybe you work for the Atlantic Council or the ‘NATO Information Excellence Center’ in Riga. In which case I salute you Latvians slaving for my tax dollars, at least you are opting to stay in Latvia unlike so many of your countrymen who left. But then again, why am I paying you or those Ukro-trolls with my tax money again? Did I ask for a new colony, or were my fellow Americans asked?

      The belligerent piss poor English typing idiots SBU had clogging Bellingcat’s comment threads when people made fun of the absurdity of Toler and Higgins Bellingcrap SBU-gathered ‘evidence’, missing BUK missiles in broad daylight being driven around on a trailer whose dates don’t match up and all near the Ukrainian front lines of Lugansk…

      If 13 year old man child Toler thinks ‘9/11 truthers! Space aliens! Reptilians! Russia Insider’ is an ‘argument’ against the demolishing of his ‘evidence’ from Tymchuk and other SBU clown sources compiled here, he’s badly mistaken:

      And yes, I will keep pointing out to everyone the utter absurdity. The only thing I don’t get is why the Malaysians are so ridiculous as to go along with this charade. Maybe Uncle Sugar threatened another one of their B777 airliners would just happen to disappear in the Indian Ocean if they didn’t play ball. Hell will freeze over before the Malaysian airlines pilot autopsies what with their insufficient damage to be BUK shrapnel are released, along with those non-existent U.S. satellite pics of a BUK or NSA ELINT intercepts of a Russian/’separatist’ BUK’s Kupola radar.

      But go on and say I’m being ad hominem dear NATO Riga, .gov US based, and Kiev trolls. I will keep laughing at your pathetic “Russia is guilty! All we need is Bellingcrap and SBU accusations and photoshopped FAKE photos as proof! Only Kremlin trolls ask why the U.S. intelligence community cannot publically release a damned thing!” Or why the Atlantic Council and MSM are kissing the butt of a known Brit fraudster Eliot Higgins who was dismissed as not knowing what he was talking about by MIT arms control expert Ted Postol, whose conclusions on Syrian rocket ranges Eliot Higgins plagiarized.

  • Joe Morton

    Anybody got an excuse for ZERO US intel dump on MH17? Nada, zero zip bupkis? I’m sure this October when the Dutch report turns out to be a NATO/Kiev vetted whitewash referring to Bellingcrap and SBU pics you will all have excuses ‘the criminal investigation would be impacted if the U.S. released a sat pic of a BUK! OMG!’ which is a total lie. The only BUK the ‘separatists’ ever had was non-working and left behind by the Ukies to frame the NAF.

    • John Tarin

      Possibly so it won’t be construed as propagandizing the issue. A simple matter of “Damned if you do…Damned if you don’t”. Sometime its sufficient to remain silent and thought of as a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

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