On the Oct. 5 edition of his program “Total Contact,” Russian state-owned Rossiya 1 television’s star political commentator Vladimir Solovyov discussed the fighting that escalated in late September between two former Soviet republics, Armenia and Azerbaijan, over Nagorno-Karabakh, the disputed territory controlled by Armenia.
Nearly 2 minutes into his stream on YouTube, Solovyov said:
“To those who watch us, I now give you an opportunity to see footage from Nagorno Karabakh. This is a fragment of a surface-to-air fight, when they are trying to shut down airplanes. When you watch this, you'd think these are some Star Wars, so beautiful, not realizing that behind every such launch there are people's lives."
The statement is false.
The footage Solovyov streamed is neither from Nagorno-Karabakh, nor from any real-life battle. Rather, it is from “Arma 3,” a military video game created by the developer Bohemia Interactive in 2013.
The original footage, identical to the video streamed by Solovyov, had been uploaded to YouTube by Chinese players on Aug. 22 and has since chalked up more than 1.3 million views.
After several viewers on YouTube questioned the veracity of the footage, Solovyov admitted the error, saying: “It is not always possible to check everything when you run a live program.”
Solovyov said the video footage he showed was picked up from a “Telegram channel that is covering the armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
Asked by the Russian Telegram channel "Pod'em" whether he would apologize for the error, Solovyov refused, saying: “Who should I apologize to? I’ll deal with my viewers myself, and I haven’t seen any of my viewers demanding an apology.”
Solovyov is a high-profile journalist who has declared “total loyalty” to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Apart from his own talk shows, Solovyov hosts “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin.”, a weekly reality TV-style program promoting the Russian president. Last December, Putin awarded Solovyov the "Order of Honor." Two months earlier, Russian rock star Boris Grebenschikov dedicated to Solovyov a song, "Vecherny Mudozvon" (Prime-Time BS-r). "He will tell everything he is ordered to say/ He is the true monument of our times," Grebenschikov sang.
Russia has an active defense pact with Armenia but has been selling weapons to both sides of the conflict while simultaneously playing the lead peacekeeper’s role in the “Minsk Group” – a multinational initiative by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE).
On Monday both Armenia and Azerbaijan reported shelling and fighting that jeopardized the ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia. More than 1,000 people died since the so-called “frozen conflict” escalated into a war on Sept. 27.