Fact Check-Years-old footage miscaptioned as if to show a ‘vacuum bomb’ in Ukraine

A day-time video capturing a dramatic bomb blast followed by a cloud of dust and debris has been circulating online since at least Dec. 2019; some social media users, however, have shared it as if depicting an explosion related to the Ukraine conflict in 2022.

“This purports to document the Russian use of a thermobaric “vacuum bomb” to destroy a Ukrainian army base in the northeastern town of Okhtyrka, killing 70 soldiers. #WarCrimes #UkraineRussiaWar #Ukraine #UkraineUnderAttaсk,” reads a tweet with the miscaptioned footage. The iteration had garnered over 90,000 views as of the writing of this article ( here )(archived here: here ).

Other posts can be found ( here ), ( here ), ( here ).

The miscaptioned video has been shared after human rights groups and Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States on Feb. 28 accused Russia of attacking Ukrainians with cluster bombs and vacuum bombs, weapons that have been condemned by a variety of international organizations.

A vacuum bomb, or thermobaric weapon, sucks in oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion, typically producing a blast wave of a significantly longer duration that that of a conventional explosive and is capable of vaporizing human bodies.

There has been no official confirmation that thermobaric weapons have been used in the conflict in Ukraine ( here ).

Through a reverse search of some of the clip’s frames, Reuters found a version of the video dating back to Dec. 12, 2019, when it was posted on YouTube ( here ). The footage was described as a purported explosion of an “ODAB 500P” device in Syria. Reuters could immediately independently verify this, but the video certainly predates the current conflict in Ukraine.

Russian media outlet Sputnik also published an article about the clip at the time ( here ).

News reports during the Syrian war of ODAB-500 thermobaric bombs being used can be seen ( here ), ( here ), ( here ), ( here).


Miscaptioned. This video predates the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and dates back to at least 2019.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.