Russia missile video misrepresented amid Caribbean deployment

After Russia deployed military vessels to waters around Cuba for exercises in 2024, social media users claimed a video showed one of its submarines firing missiles off the coast of Florida. This is false; the clip is from a 2018 White Sea test in the Arctic Ocean.

"Russia appears to be conducting marine exercises with nuclear submarines just 66 miles off the coast of Florida," said the text over a video in a June 13, 2024 Instagram post with thousands of interactions. The same clip was shared on Facebook with the claim that four missiles were fired 33 miles off Florida's coast.

Similar posts appeared on XTikTok and Rumble, some suggesting that it shows weakness from President Joe Biden's administration amid tensions over the war in Ukraine.

The claims sought to draw parallels to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 that brought the Soviet Union and United States to the brink of nuclear war.

<span>Screenshot of an Instagram post taken June 17, 2024</span>
Screenshot of an Instagram post taken June 17, 2024


<span>Screenshot of a Facebook post taken June 17, 2024</span>
Screenshot of a Facebook post taken June 17, 2024

The video however is not from 2024 and was taken far from the coast of Florida.

Using keyframes and a reverse image search, AFP found the same video posted on YouTube on May 23, 2018, by Voice of America (VOA), credited to the Russian Ministry of Defense (archived here), showing mock warheads fired from the White Sea off Russia's northwest coast to the Kamchatka Peninsula.

"A Russian nuclear-powered submarine successfully test-fired four intercontinental ballistic missiles on Tuesday, the navy said," the VOA caption said.

"The navy said the submarine, named Yuri Dolgorukiy after the medieval prince who founded Moscow, launched the Bulava missiles in a single salvo from a submerged position in the White Sea. The mock warheads the missiles carried reached their practice targets on the opposite side of Russia -- the Kura shooting range on the far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula."

It was also posted in 2018 by the India-based news channel WION (archived here) and widely covered by other media, including Tass.

US officials said they were aware of the 2024 Russian deployment and that the vessels were not carrying nuclear weapons. The Russian nuclear-powered sub Kazan, accompanied by other naval vessels, docked in Havana June 12 and departed June 17.

"We've been tracking the Russians' plans for this. This is not a surprise," Deputy Defense Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told a briefing June 12 (archived here).

"We've seen them do this -- these type of port calls before, and these are, you know, routine naval visits that we've seen under different administrations.

"We're always, constantly going to monitor any foreign vessels operating near US territorial waters. We of course take it seriously, but these exercises don't pose a threat to the United States," she said.

Pentagon officials told the Miami Herald that American warships would be monitoring the Russian vessels and expected them to move toward Venezuela after Cuba.

AFP has fact-checked other claims about the Russia-Ukraine war here.