Fact Check: Does Video Show Ukraine Drone Dropping Grenades on Civilians?

For better or worse, many scenes from the conflict in Ukraine have been captured on amateur camera footage, often showing the devastating impacts of the war.

Videos from the frontline have shown Ukrainian forces destroy Russian vehicles, artillery, and infantry, as well as capturing dramatic and harrowing scenes of open warfare in the east of the country.

Now, according to claims in a series of social media posts, the films have taken an even darker turn, capturing Kyiv forces dropping grenades on civilians in the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk.

Ukraine drone strike
A drone operator with the Ukrainian Army's 93rd Brigade attaches grenades to a DJI Mavic 3 drone on February 18, 2023 in Bakhmut, Ukraine. Ukrainian forces have been using drones for traditional reconnaissance and directing artillery fire but have also modified them to conduct direct attacks on Russian infantry. John Moore/Getty Images

The Claim

A tweet by ricwe123 posted on February 27, 2023, seen more than 205,000 times, claims that a video has been published showing civilians in Donetsk being hit with grenades by Ukrainian forces.

"You will never see this in the western mainstream media," the tweet read.

"Ukrainian quadcopter drone drops grenades on civilians in Donetsk city."

"Kiev have now reached the stage where they don't even bother hiding their war crimes."

"They know that the West will continue to support them...."

Multiple other tweets made a similar claim, including one by user LogKa11, seen more than half a million times, which uses almost the same wording.

The Facts

Data from the Institute for the Study of War shows Russia has taken advanced control of most of Donetsk Oblast in Ukraine with Kyiv forces fighting to win back the city of Bakhmut in the embattled region.

As stated on social media, the video was said to have been filmed in the Donetsk region.

However, despite the claims, it does not categorically show that civilians were targeted or even hit in the video. There are also other clues to suggest that the people in the video could be part of the Russian military or militia from the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR).

Newsweek found the original video on Telegram channel Romabroma, posted on February 24, 2023. A translation of the post states: "Greetings to the MGB [Russian Ministry of State Security] officers and some Donetsk garbage from the 59th Brigade. The greetings were delivered and handed over today directly to Donetsk."

Comments underneath the film included a map position of the second location in the film; Newsweek was able to verify that the location was near the city of Donetsk. With the city of Donetsk under advanced Russian control, it would not be surprising to see soldiers on the streets

Furthermore, as some users on Twitter have pointed out, in the first film at least one of the "civilians" appears to be carrying a rifle, though the footage is grainy and unclear.

In all the films, all of the people hit by the grenade strike also seem to be wearing uniforms (although this could be non-military too).

The claim by Telegram user Romabroma, that the video was by the Ukrainian 59th Motorized Brigade would also fit with the pattern of similar strikes the unit has filmed of Russian positions before.

However, Newsweek was unable to find any social media posts by that unit that confirms the film was theirs.

In any case, whoever the video was shot by, where it was shot, and who it targeted, there is no evidence presented to prove the claim that the individuals under attack were civilians.

Moreover, other clues in the film suggest (although do not confirm) that the people struck by the blast may have been either Russian military or DPR troops.

Ukrainian attempts to take back areas of the Donetsk region have been met with heavy Russian resistance recently.

The commander of Ukraine's ground forces speaking on social media, said recently that the situation in Bakhmut was "extremely tense" with Russian troops pushing to close off the city in its aim of taking complete control of the Donbas.

Newsweek has contacted the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence for comment.

The Ruling



There is no information in the video to prove those hit were civilians.

Moreover, there are other visual clues that suggest the people in the video may have been military targets.

One part of the video was shot in the city of Donetsk which is under advanced Russian occupation with support from the Donetsk People's Republic.

Given the uncertainties around the video, we rate this claim as Unverified.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek's Fact Check team

Unverified: The claim could be true or false, but there is at the time of publication insufficient publicly-available evidence to prove so either way. The claim should be treated with caution and skepticism until more evidence becomes available to make a conclusive determination.
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