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A video on social media claims to show the delivery of Iskander nuclear missiles, a system that can carry nuclear warheads, by Russia to its border with Finland. However, two experts claim that these images show vehicles carrying conventional, ie non-nuclear, warheads.

Verification in a nutshell

  • A video purports to show the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons on the border with Finland.
  • According to experts interviewed by Reuters, these are conventional missile systems, which could possibly carry nuclear warheads, if they had dedicated storage space, which is not the case in the region where the video was filmed.

The verification in detail

Very viral, the video was mostly shared in English on Facebook, as on this post from May 16, which has accumulated more than 4,500 views. The video shows a man in a car passing on the road at least seven military vehicles carrying missiles. For the authors of these publications, these are Iskander missiles, a Russian system capable of carrying conventional and nuclear missiles.

The driver says in Russian: “The President of Finland has not yet said that Finland is joining NATO and the entire world division of the Iskanders, with seven vehicles and new weapons, is heading for Vyborg [frontière finlandaise, NDLR]”.

Screenshot of Facebook post from June 16 claiming to show Russian Iskander missile systems
Screenshot of Facebook post from June 16 claiming to show Russian Iskander missile systems © Observers

The video was also shared on Twitter in French on June 15.

Several media took over the erroneous information, such as the British tabloid The Sun or the American media The New York Post.

Vehicles carrying conventional missiles

Reuters yet interviewed two specialists who determined that these vehicles are conventional missile systems.

Joseph Dempsey, research associate for defense and military analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Reuters the video shows a coastal defense missile system Bastion.

According to him, the Bastion coastal defense missile is different from the Iskander missile, in particular because “the body [est] smoother and [il y a un] greater rear overhang”. It is also built to carry only one conventional warhead, unlike the Iskander system which can carry two warheads.

As Reuters reports, the US Center for Missile and Space Intelligence believes that the Bastion system may eventually be nuclear.

However, Pavel Podvig, researcher at the Weapons of Mass Destruction Program at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) argues that even if the Bastion system had nuclear capability, the nuclear warheads would have to be stored in a separate facility. However, such an installation is not known in the region where the video was filmed.

On the video, the sign in Russian indicates a truck weight control station. The driver claims that the convoy is near Vyborg. We can find an Internet site listing the weight control stations in the Vyborg region, including the “Scandinavia” station. When we search for this station on Google Maps, we find the same signs as those in the video, and we can deduce that the video was shot on the A-181 road north of Saint Petersburg. The Bastion missiles are therefore effectively circulating in the direction of Vyborg, 89 km from the city, but we cannot know their final destination.

On the video at 0'56, we can see a sign indicating a vehicle weight control station
On the video at 0’56, we can see a sign indicating a vehicle weight control station © Observers

The date of the video is not known.

Everything therefore indicates that the missile systems observed in this video near the Finnish border do not carry nuclear missiles, in the absence of a known storage location in the region where these images were taken.

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