During Victory Day celebrations in Moscow this week, the Kremlin displayed images of Soviet victims and veterans of World War II—and accidentally included photos of the American outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, who died five years before the war began.
But just like its effort to cover up the horrors of its war on Ukraine, the Kremlin is attempting to revise history, by editing the image out of online versions of Victory Day footage.
The image was initially broadcast live by state broadcaster Channel One on Monday, to a nationwide audience watching a concert commemorating Russia’s defeat of Nazi Germany. During the performance, the channel showed a backdrop of black-and-white photographs supposedly depicting veterans of the war.
But at one point during the show, an image of Bonnie and Clyde was displayed in a close-up shot. The image was quickly identified as the one used on the pair’s Wikipedia profile, which also informs readers that the couple were killed in an ambush by U.S. law enforcement in May 1934.
The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab compared the live footage with the online version of the concert posted to the Channel One website later and found that the latter was edited.
“Rather than displaying the close-up of the photo, it now only shows it from a distance,” Eto Buziashvili, a research associate at Digital Forensic Research Lab, which studies disinformation on social media, wrote in an email. “The Bonnie and Clyde photograph, however, is still briefly visible.”
Just as they have ignored the multiple alleged war crimes being committed in Ukraine in recent months, almost no state-owned and pro-Kremlin outlets covered the incident.
Those who did used the same line they reserve for everything else that doesn’t fit the Kremlin’s narrative these days: The appearance of the photo was an act of “sabotage” meant to embarrass the state broadcaster.
“It is not the first time that official Russian agencies had used incorrectly sourced footage and presented it as legitimate,” Buziashvili said. “In 2017, the Russian Ministry of Defense published screen grabs from a video game, which it presented as ‘irrefutable evidence’ that the United States was colluding with the terrorist organization ISIS.”
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.