Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show 2 Russian Tu-160 Bombers 'Actually Landing In South Africa' In 2023 -- It's From 2019

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show 2 Russian Tu-160 Bombers 'Actually Landing In South Africa' In 2023 -- It's From 2019 Old Footage

Did a viral video capture two Russian Tu-160 military jets arriving in South Africa in 2023? No, that's not true: The footage, initially aired by the Russian state-sponsored TV network RT, showed a 2019 event.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Facebook on July 26, 2023.

Its caption was:

What is this?

The video contained what appeared to be a recent news report shared under the title:


Here is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of the writing of this fact check:

Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 1.26.09 PM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Aug 11 17:26:09 2023 UTC)

The video on Facebook reused a fragment of the RT show "News with Rick Sanchez." Its host, Cuban-American journalist Rick Sanchez, was fired from CNN in 2010 after making controversial comments about comedian Jon Stewart and the U.S. Jewish community. (He later apologized for those statements.) Sanchez then joined the U.S.-based division of the Russian state-sponsored TV network RT.

The video opened with Sanchez saying:

See, while the talks were underway, Russia's strategic nuclear bombers known as the White Swans actually landed in South Africa. The 13-hour flight is being called a symbolic visit. Or is it? Just another way for Russia to send a message about its capabilities.

"White Swan" is an unofficial name for the Tu-160, a Soviet Cold-War-era nuclear missile-carrying supersonic heavy bomber, also known as "Blackjack" in NATO countries. By 2023, Russia had modernized its existing Tu-160 fleet and produced several brand-new planes of this type.

But the show did not discuss 2023 events. Following the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, RT America was removed from the air by major U.S. distributors and ceased its operation on March 3, 2022. The 2021 episode below is the most recent show uploaded to the RT website:

Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 1.12.28 PM.png

(Source: RT screenshot taken on Fri Aug 11 17:12:28 2023 UTC)

As of this writing, the episode reused in the post on Facebook wasn't available on the RT website. AFP reported that the video was uploaded to the official RT YouTube channel in 2019, but as of this writing, the video was unavailable in the United States even through a VPN.

However, other sources corroborate that the bombers' arrival in South Africa happened years before the post in question appeared on Facebook. For example, the South African public broadcaster SABC News aired a similar report in 2019, not in 2023:

Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 1.46.48 PM.png

(Source: YouTube screenshot taken on Fri Aug 11 17:46:48 2023 UTC)

At the time of this 2019 visit, a press release from the Russian Ministry of Defense said that the event was meant to be part of "the combat training of the flight personnel of the two countries." The Russian state news agency TASS added that it coincided with the Russia-Africa summit held in Sochi that year.

Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims about Russia can be found here.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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