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Fact check: Fake footage of Russian warships in Cuba

June 13, 2024

The arrival of Russian navy ships, some carrying advanced weapons, off the coast of Havana has given rise to online disinformation. DW took a closer look at two videos.

Screenshot of a tweet with verdict "false" written on the top right corner
This video, purportedly showing the recent arrival of the Admiral Gorshkov frigate in Cuba, went viral two days before the Russian Navy group arrived in HavanaImage: X/@clashreport

Four Russian naval vessels, including a nuclear-powered submarine and a frigate, have docked in Cuba ahead of planned military exercises in the Caribbean.

The fleet, featuring the Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the Kazan submarine — both armed with advanced weaponry — entered Havana's harbor on Wednesday morning.

With Havana situated roughly 145 kilometers (90 miles) from the southern state of Florida, Moscow's deployment of these vessels so close to US shores has been seen as a provocative show of force.

It comes at a time when tensions seem to be rising between Moscow and Washington over Russia's full-scale war in Ukraine. US President Joe Biden recently gave Ukraine the go-ahead to use American weapons for strikes inside Russia.

A view of Havana Bay in Cuba, with a Russian frigate in the background
​​Russia and Cuba have been allies for decades, with Russian ships occasionally visiting Havana. Their recent military cooperation echoes Cold War tensionsImage: Arial Ley/AP/picture alliance

In the days leading up to the arrival of the Russian warships, images and videos circulated online, purportedly showing the arrival of the Admiral Gorshkov frigate in Havana's port.

A separate video allegedly showed US troop deployments in response.

DW has investigated the footage.

Outdated footage claimed as new

Claim: A video allegedly shows the recent arrival of the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov in Cuba.

In the footage, a gray frigate is seen approaching the harbor. Specific Havana landmarks are visible in the background, such as the San Carlos de la Cabana fortress and del Puerto Avenue. In recent days, the video has been shared across social media platforms in various languages, including Spanish, German, Russian, Arabic and English.

One version of the video, posted on June 10 on X, formerly Twitter, was captioned, "Zircon hypersonic missile carrier, the frigate Admiral Gorshkov, arrived in the capital of Cuba today," attracting about 166,000 views by the time this article was published.

A separate, German post on X captioned the video similarly and was viewed about 35,000 times. Multiple other posts containing the same video with similar claims have each gained tens of thousands of views.

DW fact check: False.

While the video does show the frigate Admiral Gorshkov at the port in Havana, it has nothing to do with the fleet's visit on June 12.

A reverse image search of a screenshot from the video using TinEye reveals that the video refers to a visit to Havana by the same frigate in 2019. A longer version of the video is available on YouTube, published by The Associated Press news agency in June 2019.

Has US deployed troops due to Russian threat?

Claim: A video shows US troop deployments in response to the Russian fleet's visit to Havana.

Another video spreading across multiple platforms claims to show US warplanes and helicopters flying over a beach in Miami, Florida.

One of the posts, which has so far garnered about 2 million views, captioned the video as follows: "US Navy has now been deployed in Miami due to Russian warship and nuclear-powered submarine threats!"

DW fact check: False.

Although US forces have reportedly deployed ships and drones to track and monitor the Russian fleet, the footage shown is from an older, unrelated operation. A reverse search of one of the scenes from the video leads to a video published on TikTok in May.

The footage appears to demonstrate a US Navy air show on this year's Memorial Day in late May. Similar videos from the show are available online, captured by people present at the same location, and published shortly after the show.

Screenshot of a post suggesting the US Navy had deployed warplanes in response to Russia's landing in Cuba, with the word "false" stamped on the upper right corner
A video showing an air show at Miami Beach in May was posted multiple times on X and other platforms, reaching millions of users

US officials have already stated that while they take Russia's visit to Cuba seriously, they don't see the exercises as posing a military threat to the United States.

Conclusion: The Russian navy's planned military exercises in the Caribbean have prompted online discussions about the possibility of an escalation of military tensions between the US and Russia.

Following the arrival of Russian ships in Cuba's main port, videos taken out of context gained traction online. In this case, two videos falsely claimed to depict scenes related to the Russian navy's visit to Cuba and the US response.

Do you want to know more about how to recognize and verify fake content? Check out our articles and videos and get to know DW's fact-checking team.

Edited by: Thomas Sparrow