False posts claim 'Russian and Indonesian missiles destroyed Darwin, Australia'

Video posts with tens of thousands of views on YouTube and Facebook falsely claim that "Indonesian and Russian missiles have destroyed the northern Australian city of Darwin". There is no evidence this incident ever happened and AFP has previously debunked similar misinformation about a purported armed conflict involving Indonesia and Australia. The video featured in the false posts shows unrelated clips that have circulated in reports about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a fire in the Russian capital Moscow and a military exercise in Lithuania.

"Thousands of flying missiles!! Attack from the Indonesian military and Russia has successfully destroyed the heart of the Australian city," claims this post on YouTube here on December 24, 2022.

The eight-minute 14-second video shows at least three distinct clips: footage of what appears to a huge fireball in the sky, an explosion and clips of soldiers during a military exercise.

At the six-second mark, a female-voice narrator can be heard saying: "The war is heating up. The Indonesian Military troops have been ordered to attack Australia from all directions."

The narrator is heard again at the one-minute 20-second mark saying: "Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto has started to order the Indonesian troops to attack Australia from all directions, on Friday, December 23, 2022.

"Prabowo said his party had launched missiles at the military target in Australia and would plan to attack from all directions, after accusing Australia of rejecting to talk.

"On Friday night local time, an explosion is reported to have lighted the strategic maritime area of Darwin in North Australia. "

At the two-minute three-second mark, the narrator says: "Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese vowed to not surrender to Indonesia and its allies, let alone hand over the contested Pulau Pasir to Indonesia."

The video has been viewed more than 74,000 times.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on January 16, 2023

In October 2022, local Indonesian media reported that an Indonesian fisherman said he would file a lawsuit against Australia over its "ownership of Pulau Pasir" -- a reference to Australia's Ashmore Reef.

The reef is part of the MoU Box, an area in the Australian waters in the Timor Sea. Indonesian traditional fisherfolk are allowed to access the area based on a 1974 agreement between the two neighbouring countries.

Similar posts have also been shared on YouTube here and here; and on Facebook here and here, racking up more than 40,000 views.

But there have been no credible reports about the purported attack against Australia described in the post.

Unrelated clips

Using the verification tool InVID-WeVerify, AFP found none of the clips in the video show a missile attack in Darwin, the capital of Australia's Northern Territory.

The video's opening clip was previously shared in March 2022 by news outlet CNN Indonesia here, UK-based video-licensing agency Newsflare here and UK tabloid The Daily Mail here.

These reports say the clip shows a Russian fighter jet shot down over Kharkiv, a city in eastern Ukraine.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the misleading post (left) and the genuine video from The Daily Mail (right):

Screenshot comparison of the video in the misleading post (left) and the genuine video from The Daily Mail (right)

The scene showing buildings engulfed in fire has appeared in December 2022 reports by Euronews here and the BBC here about a fire in a major shopping centre in Moscow.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the misleading post (left) and the genuine video from Euronews (right):

Screenshot comparison of the video in the misleading post (left) and the genuine video from Euronews (right)

Finally, the clips of tanks and soldiers show a large-scale military drill by the Lithuanian Army with eight other NATO countries in October 2022.

The video was published by NATO on its website on October 27, 2022 here.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the misleading post (left) and the genuine NATO footage (right):

Screenshot comparison of the video in the misleading post (left) and the genuine NATO footage (right)

Fabricated claim

A Google search of keywords used the false posts found the female narrator reads an altered Indonesian news article about Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The original report was published by Indonesian media outlet Kompas.com on February 27, 2022, and is titled: "Russia Begins to Order Troops to Advance From All Directions in Ukraine."

The Kompas.com report does not mention Australia; its details have been altered in the voice narration to add fabricated references to the country.

In the clip, the narrator says: "Indonesia's defense minister, Prabowo Subianto, has started to order the Indonesian troops to attack Australia from all directions on Friday, December 23, 2022."

The original Kompas.com report reads: "Russia has started to order its troops to attack Ukraine from all directions on Saturday, December 26, 2022."

Later, the narrator can be heard saying: "On Friday night local time, an explosion is reported to have lighted the strategic maritime area of Darwin in North Australia."

The Kompas.com report actually says: "On Friday night local time, an explosion is reported to have lighted the strategic maritime area of Mykolaiv in Ukraine."

The narrator can also be heard saying: "Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese vowed to not surrender to Indonesia and its allies, let alone hand over the contested Pulau Pasir to Indonesia."

But the original article actually reads: "Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to not surrender to Russia."

The Kompas.com article is a translation of AFP's English report, headlined: "Russian troops ordered to advance ‘from all directions’ in Ukraine."

AFP has previously debunked similar false posts about an ongoing armed conflict between Indonesia and Australia, such as here, here and here.