Russia Airbrushes British Embassy Out of World Cup Opening Video

Football fans from across the globe gather at the official FIFA Fan Fest at Moscow State University to watch the first World Cup game between Russia and Saudi Arabia in Moscow on June 14. Footage of the opening ceremony featured a version of Moscow that some locals did not recognize. Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

The British Embassy in Moscow has been replaced by a golden-domed church, if Russian state TV broadcasts of the soccer World Cup opening ceremony are to be believed.

Eagle-eyed Russian viewers were left wondering what had happened on the banks of the Moskva River, after the country's main TV channel, Perviy Kanal, showed an odd-looking rendering of the Moscow promenade in promotional footage Thursday. The British Embassy building, which has sat on Moscow's Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya since 2000, had mysteriously vanished from a computer-generated bird's-eye view of the city.

The clip of what mostly looked like the Russian capital showed a glistening, Russian Orthodox cathedral in the place of the diplomatic building that actually stands there, with Telegram channel MBKh media being the first to notice. The apparent edit to the Moscow skyline in the clip, which Perviy Kanal subsequently uploaded on YouTube, was not the only change from the city's real appearance.

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"You can also see the Rostov stele [a notable Rostov landmark] here," the account claimed, pointing to a screenshot from the footage, which not only has the embassy missing but also a tall pillar-like monument, stretching into the sky.

В открывающем ролике ЧМ-2018 на «Первом» на место посольства Великобритании телепортировали собор Святого Феодора Ушакова прямиком из Саранска. Как тебе такое, Илон Маск?


— Лентач (@oldLentach) June 15, 2018

Several news outlets have since taken notice of the incident, identifying the two additions to Moscow's geography as constructions from other Russian cities.

The church bears a striking resemblance to the Cathedral of Saint Theodore Ushakov in Saransk, independent news channel Dozhd reported on Friday. The place of worship, named after an 18th-century naval officer, actually sits 370 miles southeast of the British Embassy.

The stele in question resembles the monument dedicated to the Soviet Union's defeat of invading Nazi forces in Rostov region. The Soviet government unveiled the modernist obelisk structure in 1983 as a tribute to the troops on the 40th anniversary of the battle for the city of Rostov-on-Don, 680 miles south of the location in the video.

There is nothing resembling either building in the surrounding area of Moscow, prompting questions about why Perviy Kanal decided to editorialize the Russian capital with other cities' monuments. At the time of this article, Perviy Kanal has deactivated access to the clip on its YouTube page, however the man behind it has stood by the footage, telling the Rambler News Service his intention was to show more than just the city where the World Cup opening took place.

"The video does not show Moscow but a composite image of all 11 cities who are hosting the World Cup," Sergey Ilyn-Koslovsky said in a statement to RNS, sent via Perviy Kanal. "This is a fantasy landscape and Moscow is its foundation as a capital of the tournament. On this foundation of Moscow we integrated key sites from the other 10 cities where the Mundial will be held."

Both Saransk and Rostov will host World Cup matches, as will St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Ekaterinburg, Kazan, Samara, Volgograd and Sochi.