Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show Russian Soldiers In Ukraine -- They Are Kenya Defence Forces

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show Russian Soldiers In Ukraine -- They Are Kenya Defence Forces Kenyan Forces

Does a Facebook video show Russian soldiers using a Soviet-era rocket-propelled grenade in Ukraine during the 2022 invasion? No, that's not true: Two military experts contacted by Lead Stories in March 2022 said the uniforms worn in the video don't match those of Russians fighting in Ukraine.

Nick Reynolds, a research analyst for land warfare at the U.K.'s Royal United Services Institute, was able to pin it down a bit more. "The camouflage pattern and, in particular, the body armour design indicate that the personnel in question are from the Kenyan Defence Forces," he said.

The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) on March 13, 2022, titled "#russian πŸ€£πŸ˜‚ #ukraine πŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦." It opens:

Russian soldiers using weapons that have been in a cupboard since soviet times

This is what the post looked like on Facebook on March 18, 2022:

Screenshot 2022-03-18 123217.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Mar 18 16:18:35 2022 UTC)

The seven-second video, which shows soldiers running away when an RPG misfires, is meant to mock Russian forces during their invasion of Ukraine, including the caption: "Russian soldiers using weapons that have been in a cupboard since soviet times." There are several "tears of joy" emojis to help make the point.

In a March 18, 2022, email to Lead Stories, Reynolds said it's very clear to him what the footage shows:

I'm certain that they are Kenyan forces in the video, not Russian.

In the interest of dispelling any ambiguity, the body armour design is the key giveaway that leads me to that conclusion, but everything else correlates too. I have seen no evidence of Kenyan military personnel deployed to Ukraine in any capacity, nor of Kenya distributing uniforms or body armour to either side, and the weather in the video looks inconsistent with Ukrainian weather between the start of the invasion last month and today. The only possibly Russian thing in the video is the RPG-7 launcher, but it is loaded with a verifiably Chinese warhead; both of these are known to be in the Kenyan Defence Forces' arsenal, so no surprises there.

Supporting Reynolds' point is a longer 30-second YouTube video titled "KDF officers Escape death after their RPG failed to launch." KDF is short for Kenya Defence Forces. The beginning of the video is the same as the Facebook post (without the caption and the emojis), but also shows the faces of what appear to be African soldiers after they scatter to get away from the explosive:

Another military expert concurred that the video doesn't show Russian forces. In a March 18, 2022, email to Lead Stories, Colin Smith, a senior international/defense researcher at RAND Corporation, said:

I'm happy to offer my opinion that this appears to be false, and certainly not currently in Ukraine. Uniforms don't look accurate. Those supervising do not seem to be armed or geared up for the kind of combat on going now in Ukraine ...

Almost all soldiers (on both sides) engaged in the war in Ukraine are also wearing some form of identifying arm and leg band (Ukraine yellow or blue) (Russia mostly white, but I've seen others.) This is to attempt to eliminate friendly fire in close combat, as many are dressed similarly. None of those are evident in that video. The video appears to be of a training session. Gunner with assistant (could also be a trainer) with a supervisor trainer standing above. Other trainees, participants in the range exercise standing around in the back ground.

In a separate March 18, 2022, email, Reynolds reiterated his earlier point:

The low quality of the video doesn't help with identification, but the camouflage pattern and, in particular, the body armour design indicate that the personnel in question are from the Kenyan Defence Forces. The weapon is an RPG-7, not clear whether it is Russian or a licensed copy, but the warhead is clearly a 75mm Type 69 high explosive/fragmentation munition, manufactured by Norinco, China (may also be designated DZGI-40 warhead).

Other Lead Stories fact checks related to the 2022 Russia-Ukraine conflict can be found here.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

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