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Watching Syria’s War as a Music Video Shot by a Russian Drone

Open Source


OCT. 20, 2015



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    When the Syrian government launched a major offensive last week, pounding rebel positions on the outskirts of Damascus, a correspondent for Russian state television, Evgeny Poddubnyy, narrated a report on the attack while standing alongside artillery gunners firing from a destroyed building in the suburb of Jobar.

    But the most dramatic images of the battle in the broadcast were captured from above the ruined landscape by a drone operated by Mr. Poddubnyy’s cameraman, Alexander Pushin.

    This week, Mr. Pushin shared a sort of dance remix of the drone footage on Facebook, offering aerial views of rebels in Jobar under fire from T-72 tanks, mortar rounds and Russian Sukhoi jets, set to electronic dance music and tinted in such a way as to make the resulting clip look and feel like an ad for a video game.

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    A Russian television crew's drone footage of a Syrian government offensive in a Damascus suburb last week. Alexander Pushin, via YouTube

    The Russian’s conflict music video, featuring the track “High Roller” by the Crystal Method, an American electronica duo who sampled audio from NASA’s Apollo 8 mission, racked up more than half a million views in just over 24 hours.

    If the video feels something like a commercial, that might be because Mr. Pushin has recently been using footage shot in Syria and Russia to promote his drone filming company, Russia Works.

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    Drone footage of fighting in Syria from a Russian television crew working for the state broadcaster. Alexander Pushin, via YouTube Continue reading the main story
    A promotional film for RussiaWorks, a drone filming company. Alexander Pushin, via YouTube

    According to conflict bloggers who analyze social media images, the video does appear to have been recorded in Jobar.

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    We've used open sources to map out Damascus battle footage captured by a drone. #Syria https://t.co/febh6T7k83 pic.twitter.com/DS9d1wUFmp

    — Levantine Group (@Levantinegroup) Oct. 20, 2015
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    Geolocation the #Jobar drone video. #Damascus, #Syria https://t.co/CXHVqLNrqP pic.twitter.com/X5iRkR4K9r

    — GEOrge (@ArtWendeley) Oct. 20, 2015

    Jobar, a northeastern suburb of Damascus, was the site of large street protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, which were frequently attacked by the security forces.

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    12 year old shot dead in Jobar Damascus by security forces today http://t.co/XIowfkT #Syria

    — Edward Dark (@edwardedark) July 15, 2011

    In 2013, as noted by The Interpreter, a news site financed by the Russian dissident Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky’s foundation, chemical weapons attacks by government forces on rebels in Jobar were reported by French journalists and local opposition activists.

    In his analysis of the viral video, Roland Oliphant, a Moscow correspondent for the London newspaper The Telegraph, observed that intensive Russian state television coverage of the war in Syria might have helped sway the public behind the military intervention.

    “Before the intervention just 14 percent of Russians said they backed direct military support for Bashar al-Assad’s government, according to a mid-September poll by the independent Levada Center,” Mr. Oliphant reported. “But a later survey by the same pollster released on Oct. 8, one week into the air campaign, showed 72 percent of Russians backing airstrikes.”


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