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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Syria: February 24, 2016

Publication: Putin in Syria
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Is The Video Of A Car Bomb Reportedly Killing Russian Generals In Syria A Fake?
A video has been circulating today which reportedly shows a car bomb, allegedly planted by the Syrian rebel group Ahrar al Sham, which reportedly killed "dozens" of Russian generals at their base in Lattakia:
Another video appears to show the same base -- some sort of vehicle storage lot -- and appears to have been taken either by a Russian soldier or by someone working with the Assad regime:

The story made it to the attention of Jerusalem Post, which filed this report:

According to the media office of Ahrar al-Sham, the two factions, in coordination with local jihadists who were located at the Russian military base, decided to bomb the car after they observed a gathering of senior Russian generals at the military base.

Ahrar al-Sham claims that dozens of Russian generals were killed and injured in the explosion. According to the movement, the announcement of the terror attack was delayed until Wednesday to ensure that the jihadists who committed the attack returned safely to opposition territories. 

However, the original video reportedly showing the car bombing does not sit well with us at all for a variety of reasons.

1. We've seen videos of car bombings before, and this just does not look right. In a car bombing, the actual bomb is usually stored in a part of the car -- maybe the back seat, the truck, or attached to the underside of the car. As such, when they detonate, they very rarely blow the entire car apart. The explosion is actually slow, taking place inside the car until part of the structure, like a window, fails.

The explosion then exits the hole, often ripping the part of the car around the structural failure apart. The result is that you can usually see the parts of the car blow away from the vehicle, and the smoke and fire are usually somewhat directional. But the rest of the car remains largely intact. In this video, one moment there are parked cars and the very next the entire frame is filled with smoke. There's no visual evidence of an explosion or of debris, and the smoke never settles.

In comparison, has posted several videos of car bombs exploding. As you can see, they all appear very different from this explosion.

Iraqi Suicide Car Bomb Caught on Tape

A suicide car bomb blast was captured by security cameras in Karrada on May 15, 2014. The shockwave is so strong it nearly knocks the camera off its mount. Explosion occurs around the 40 second mark. From -- Baghdad ( Baghdad Operations Command announced that the two bombings in Karrada area resulted in killing 6 persons and injuring 40 others.

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Feb 24, 2016 23:33 (GMT)

2. We believe that just a fraction of a second before the explosion can be seen, you can hear the start of the bang. Since light travels much faster than sound, this should be the opposite, especially if the camera is zoomed in and is actually far away from the Russian military base, as we'd expect. It's possible the video is poorly synced, but that the visual and audio evidence of the explosion are almost simultaneous -- but slightly wrong -- is a red flag.

3. At about the 8-9 second mark there is an obvious edit as the camera zooms out. You can see that the pattern of the smoke changes.

Our guess -- there are three videos combined here, the first showing the vehicle lot, the second -- superimposed over the 1st -- shows an explosion. A third, which the video cuts to after 8-9 seconds, shows a larger explosion.

4. There are other problems -- Russian generals typically have drivers who drop them off an pick them up in front of whatever building they are entering or exiting. Why are all these Russian generals supposedly staying in parked cars? Instead we see no evidence that there are people in any of these vehicles, nor do the vehicles move. The generals would be sitting ducks.

We can't say for sure that this video is fake, but at this point we have no reason to suspect that it's real, especially without some indication in the press, or even on social media, that "dozens" of Russian generals have been killed in Syria.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Reports Of Heavy Casualties After Russian Jets Bomb Market In Idlib

There are reports of heavy casualties today after an air strike on a market in the Idlib town of Arihah.

Idlib Civil Defence uploaded footage of rescuers arriving on the scene (warning graphic):

The Syrian Local Coordination Committees (LCC) report at least eight civilians dead and more than 20 wounded. The LCC claims that the strike was conducted by Russian jets.

The Shaam News Network reports at least 12 dead.

With just over 48 hours left until yet another ceasefire deal is supposed to come into effect, Russian jets are reported to have been pounding rebel-held areas not just in Idlib, but across the country.

Orient News reports that four civilians were killed today, including one child, and eight wounded after Russian jets struck the town of al-Atareb, west of Aleppo city.

In the Hama province, the town of al-Lataminah was struck several times by the Russian Air Force, the LCC report.

In Daraa, near Syria's southern borders, the LCC report multiple Russian strikes on Aqraba, el-Mal and Kafar Nasej.

In addition, there have been attacks on ISIS-held al-Boleel near Deir ez-Zor, with at least one person reportedly killed.

Today also saw further evidence of the use of cluster munitions by the Russian Air Force, something which Russia has repeatedly denied despite abundant evidence.

These submunitions were reportedly dropped by Russian jets in the Aleppo region:

Mark Hiznay, senior arms researcher for Human Rights Watch, has identified them as Russian PTAB-1M submunitions, usually released from RBK-500 cluster bombs.

-- Pierre Vaux