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Fact Check-Video of pre-dug graves in Russia is from 2021, depicts routine practice before winter

A video of a field of pre-dug graves in Russia is circulating online with claims they are being prepared for the burial of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine. The clip is from 2021, however, and shows graves prepared ahead of Siberia’s harsh winter.

“Hundreds of graves have been dug in cemeteries in Russia, waiting for the burial of ‘200 Russian cargo’ , [sic] which is beginning to arrive from Ukraine,” one account sharing the post wrote (here).

Others have shared the clip here and here.

However, the clip predates Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It appeared online as early as Oct. 9, 2021, with video descriptions claiming it showed graves in Surgut, West Siberia (here).

The video also gained traction alongside false claims in October 2021, with fears bubbling online that the graves were for people who died from COVID-19 (here).

Reuters verified the video as having been shot in the Chernorechenskoye Kladbishche cemetery in Surgut (bit.ly/358vHCO).

At timestamp 0:07 of the video (here), five power station chimneys can be seen in the distance. Three are to the centre of the frame, with two off to the right.

Reuters analysed satellite imagery from 2021, identifying the columns of Surgut’s two power stations, approximately 15km from the cemetery (bit.ly/3iGG5Vr).

The Mayor of Surgut, Andrey Filatov, took to Instagram on March 7 to dispel the rumour that the graves were for Russian soldiers (here).

He said the video was from 2021 and showed graves dug ahead of winter at the Surgut cemetery.

Filatov added (translated): “At that time, the graves were being prepared for winter. This is a standard procedure for earthworks in northern cities. Due to the fact that we have rather low temperatures in winter, all work of this specific nature is carried out in advance. This has been practiced for at least 15 years.”

Temperatures in Siberia can reach as low as -50°C.

In October 2021, Surgut-based news outlet SiTV.ru also reported on the digging of the graves, noting it is carried out in preparation for winter (here).

VERDICT

False. The graves were dug in Surgut, West Siberia, in 2021 in preparation for cold weather in winter, according to local authorities.

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

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