Global media outlets widely shared a video they attributed to Russian state energy company Gazprom in articles published on September 6, 2022. The video, which was circulated online by pro-Russian users, showed the company halting its flow of natural gas to Europe. However, our journalists investigated the origins of the video and discovered that it likely wasn’t made by Gazprom.
“Gazprom is threatening Europe with a freezing winter“, “Russian gas company taunts Europe”, “The mind-blowing propaganda video by Gazprom“: just some of the headlines from several French media outlets on September 6 and 7, 2022. These articles claimed that Russian energy company Gazprom – which specialises in extraction as well as the treatment and sale of natural gas – put out a video showing what it would look like if they stopped all gas flow to Europe.
The story was picked up by multiple media outlets, some in different countries. The video was also broadcast by several television channels and widely shared online, especially by pro-Russian accounts.
The video shows a man said to be a Gazprom employee shutting off a tap, and then several aerial images of European cities plunged into an icy winter darkness. The images were set to a song called “Зима”, which roughly translates to “This winter will be grand”, a Soviet patriotic anthem composed by Yuri Vizbor.
Video nowhere to be found on Gazprom’s social media account
But what is the exact origin of this propaganda video? There are a few clues that make it seem unlikely that the video was created by Gazprom. First, it wasn’t shared on any of the social media accounts run by the giant.
None of Gazprom’s official Twitter accounts – in Russian, English and German, to name a few – shared this video. There is no sign of this video on Gazprom’s official site, or even its page on Russian social media network Vkontakte, where the company is extremely active. Same deal for Gazprom’s YouTube channel, where the company shares all of its ads.
A montage made up of other videos
When we took a look at Gazprom’s YouTube channel, we realised that the video in question is actually a montage made from other images already circulating online. For example, the image showing the back of a Gazprom employee as he walks towards a factory was used in a video published on September 9, 2019 on Gazprom’s YouTube channel.
The video, however, also contains footage that doesn’t feature on any of Gazprom’s sites – like the footage at the end of the video that shows a tall, glass skyscraper emerging from a sea of clouds. The building is the Lakhta Center, a skyscraper in St. Petersburg built by a team of Russian, British, Turkish and American architects and companies. Gazprom’s headquarters have been located there since 2019.
If you run a YouTube search using the words “Лахта центр облака”, which means “Lakhta Center clouds” in Russian, then you’ll pull up the original video featuring this footage. It was taken from a video posted online on August 23, 2018 on Лахта Центр, the skyscraper’s official channel.
Turns out, this footage comes from British company The B1M, which often makes videos that serve as architectural models. Their YouTube channel, which has 2.6 million followers, is full of these videos. Some of the footage in the propaganda video actually still has the The B1M logo on it – proof that this footage does indeed come from the British company.
Is Gazprom actually threatening a Russian town?
The video also shows images of a town plunged into a freezing winter, which is supposed to represent European cities suffering from a lack of natural gas. However, these images actually show a town… in Russia.
Using geolocation techniques (check out our guide), we were able to identify that some of the footage in the video shows the Vinogradovsky bridge, located in the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk. There are a number of images of this bridge on Google Street View.
A Russian journalist actually claims that he made the video
And then the final clue – on September 6, 2022, Fontanka.ru, a Russian investigative media outlet based in St. Petersburg, published an article about a Russian journalist who claims that he actually made this video. Artur Khodyrev told Fontanka.ru that he and a colleague made the video together. Khodyrev said, however, that it was a “personal initiative” and neither were paid.
The video actually appeared on Artur Khodyrev’s Vkontake page on the morning of September 6, 2022. Gazprom, for its part, hasn’t commented. The France 24 Observers team attempted on several occasions to contact the Russian company but we have not yet received a response.