On August 27, the official Twitter account of the Russian Embassy in South Africa tweeted a photo of what appears to be actors on a film set. This image accompanied a claim that “English-speaking foreign specialists” had arrived in Syria to stage a chlorine chemical attack in Hama province.
The photo does indeed show a film set, but not “foreign specialists.” In fact, the photo is of the set of Revolution Man, a film produced by Syrian state media.
The film’s plot involves a journalist who goes to Syria to take award-winning photos, but, having failed to do so, resorts to staging a chemical attack. In other words, it is a propaganda film which makes the same allegations that the Syrian government and its Russian allies have made after numerous real chemical attacks.
Russia’s government and state media have repeatedly claimed that Syrian rebels, or rescue workers from the White Helmets group, stage chemical attacks to frame the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. While they have yet to provide any evidence for these claims, United Nations investigations have confirmed that the Assad regime used chemical weapons in more than two dozen cases. In October 2017, Russia used its vote on the U.N. Security Council to veto a resolution that would have extended the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism between the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The vote took place shortly before the release of a report on the chemical attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, where more than 80 men, women, and children were killed.
Chlorine has been used in multiple attacks in Syria, a recent one taking place in the town of Douma this past April. Polygraph.info documented how Russian media repeatedly spread disinformation about that attack, including another instance in which photos from a film set were presented as “proof” that the attack had been staged. Those photos turned out to be from the making of an independent film shot in 2016.