Fact check: Videos do not show tanks en route to Ukraine

Friday, 27 January 2023 (21:30 IST)
It's official: Germany will deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. After days of discussions and speculation, the German government announced it will be sending 14 Leopard-2A6 tanks to the embattled country. It said it will also permit other countries to send their Leopard tanks as well. Yet ahead of the announcement, videos were already being shared on social media purporting to show German Leopards 2 tanks on route to Ukraine. They were posted on Telegram, Tiktok, Twitter and VK, and viewed hundreds of thousands of times. Did Germany really send a train with Leopard tanks to Ukraine before makings its decision public?
Claim: On the morning of January 25, a Telegram user posted a video showig a train loaded with tanks, commenting that "several regions of Europe are showing the active movement of tanks towards NATO's eastern flank," claiming that this clip shows "a train with Leopard 2 tanks owned by the Bundeswehr [Germany's armed forces] heading east."
A Twitter user published another video of a train claiming it was waiting in Hosena before continuing onwards to Ukraine. Yet another Twitter account posted the same video with the exact same comment.
DW fact check: False.
None of these videos show tank deliveries for Ukraine. A Yandex reverse picture search reveals the Telegram video can be traced back to May 1, 2022. Back then, a Russian-lanuage and Portuguese-language Telegram user already claimed this clip showed German tanks being sent eastwards. German Christian Democratic lawmaker Thadäus König had dispelled this claim with a Facebook post several days prior, on April 27, 2022. He wrote: "These are battle tanks from Thuringia's 393 tank battalion from Bad Frankenhausen. They participated in a large-scale pre-planned military exercise named Wettiner Schwert [Wettin Sword] at the Altmark (Saxony-Anhalt) combat training grounds and are now returning to their home barracks." Local media outlets also covered these events. A spokesperson of the Bundeswehr's territorial command confirmed to DW that the video in question shows tanks from the 393 tank battalion being transported back to their home barracks in Bad Frankenhausen.
DW was able to verify the location of the train at the time. It was waiting at Heiligenstadt train station in Thuringia, Germany. The video does not show tank deliveries for Ukraine. 
The second video showing a train loaded with tanks at a snowy train station is more recent and was probably filmed on January 22, according to our research. It appears to show Hosena train station, as can be inferred from pictures of the station. A spokesperson of the Bundeswehr's territorial command confirmed to DW this train is not a bound for Ukraine but part of routine rotation of troops and military kit connected to NATO's Lithuania mission.
The spokesperson told DW "the train deliveries that have been spotted are German Leopard 2 battle tanks, connected to a routine rotation of German troops stationed in Lithuania. The battle tanks were deployed as part of the Forward Presence Battlegroup in Lithuania." The spokersperson said this train is not connected to planned tank deliveries for Ukraine.
Roman Osadchuk of the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab thinks it is no coincidence such videos are widely shared now that Germany will deliver tanks to Ukraine. Osadchuk studies Russian propaganda narratives and disinformation techniques.
"From a Russian perspective, spreading such content can serve the purpose of underscoring that Europe is preparing to attack Russia," he told DW. "The logic is this: They are getting ready, so we need to mobilize even more." Other users may simply be trying to gain attention, likes, shares and such, Osadchuk said, who has been observing such behavior since the outbreak of war.
Verdict: Neither video shows an early delivery of German Leopard 2 tanks before the German government made any such announcement. One video shows a delivery of tanks connected to a military exercise on German soil, the other shows tanks connected to a NATO mission in Lithuania. Neither are connected to the war in Ukraine.

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