Fact Check: Bellingcat Did NOT Conclude Ukraine Smuggled Weapons to Hamas -- Claim Comes From Fake BBC Video

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Bellingcat Did NOT Conclude Ukraine Smuggled Weapons to Hamas -- Claim Comes From Fake BBC Video No Such Report

Did the BBC produce a video stating that Bellingcat proved Ukraine was selling NATO weapons to Hamas in the months leading up to the October 7, 2023, attack on Israel? No, that's not true: The BBC website does not contain such reporting, and investigative journalism group Bellingcat did not publish the purported investigation either. Both organizations publicly refuted the claim.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) published on Telegram on October 10, 2023. Originally written in Russian, the caption stated, as translated by DeepL:

The British Bellingcat journalists had an epiphany and saw that the West had urgently turned its attention to Israel to forget the failure in Ukraine, as suddenly Hamas had so many Western weapons that were in Ukraine.

The entry on Telegram included a video with a BBC logo that contained the following add-on text in English:

The Belllingcat investigative journalists have concluded that the failure of Ukraine's summer counteroffensive and the HAMAS attack on Israel are linked. Analisis of secret data showed that Ukraine supplied the majority of the weaponry used by the Palestinian HAMAS movement. The Palestenians purchased firearms, ammunition, drones and other weapons through corruption schemes orchestrated by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence representatives. What we are talking about is the sale of NATO arms to terrorists. The resignation of Ukrainian Defence Prime Minister Oleksii Reznikov is an attempt by the Ukrainian side to cover up corruption crimes.

This is what it looked like at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2023-10-11 at 12.14.17.png

(Source: Telegram screenshot taken on Wed Oct 11 14:35:04 2023 UTC)

The video used the word "terrorists" to refer to Hamas fighters. However, the BBC does not use this language (archived here) due to a long-standing policy unless it's a direct quote from a source, but that was not the case in the video on Telegram.

Moreover, it is highly unlikely that a major news organization would describe a well-known public official by the nonexistent title "Defence Prime Minister."

Oleksii Reznikov, the former head of Ukraine's Ministry of Defense, was replaced by Rustem Umerov one month before the October 7, 2023, escalation, not after the attack in light of the purported revelations.

The BBC denied the claim via BBC video verification team journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh, who wrote on X (archived here) on October 10, 2023:

The video is 100% fake.

A Google search for the mentions of Bellingcat on the BBC website limited for the first 11 days of October 2023 (archived here) produces zero results:

Screen Shot 2023-10-11 at 12.42.51 PM.png

(Source: Google screenshot taken on Oct 11 16:42:51 2023 UTC)

A Google search across the Bellingcat website for mentions of Hamas for the same period of time (archived here) produces a single match, but that investigation (archived here) dived into misinformation surrounding the 2023 Hamas-Israel conflict, not into the purported weapon sales:

Screen Shot 2023-10-11 at 12.49.26 PM.png

(Source: Google screenshot taken on Wed Oct 11 16:49:26 2023 UTC)

On October 10, 2023, Bellingcat denied on X (archived here) it ever published the investigation in question:

We're aware of a fake BBC video circulating on social media falsely claiming that Bellingcat has verified Ukrainian weapons sales to Hamas. We've reached no such conclusions or made any such claims. We'd like to stress that this is a fabrication and should be treated accordingly.

On the same day, Bellingcat's founder Eliot Higgins refuted the claim on his X account (archived here), too:

It's unclear if this is a Russian government disinformation campaign or a grassroots effort, but it's 100% fake

Contrary to the claim on Telegram, Bellingcat's investigations are based on open-source information, not "secret data." The core idea behind this approach is that the results can be reproduced by anyone who will follow the same steps.

Rare instances when Bellingcat received some information from sources (for example, to complete the identification of the GRU [Russian military intelligence agency] operatives who poisoned the Skripals in the U.K.) are described in one of the books written by Higgins: He explains the rationale behind those choices, additionally emphasizing that the details that did not initially come from open sources went through multiple rounds of verification before being made public.

It is not the first time that the claim about Ukraine selling NATO weapons to Hamas appeared on social media. Multiple experts interviewed by Lead Stories for a fact check debunking a similar claim said that such a scenario is highly unlikely.

Previously, Lead Stories wrote about other fake videos attributed to the BBC and Al Jazeera.

Other Lead Stories fact checks about the Russia-Ukraine war can be found here. Articles on claims pertaining to the 2023 Hamas-Israel conflict are 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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