Russian TV's polar ploy James Cameron "Titanic" Finnish teen exposes the fraud
UNEARTHLY blue lights played across the ocean floor four kilometres below the North Pole as the heroic Russian explorers descended in mini-submarines to plant a metre-high flag.
That's what the Russian state television company, Rossiya, wanted us to believe. The truth was rather different.
In an apparent attempt to "sex up" a news program, the TV station has been caught passing off footage from the 1997 Hollywood blockbuster Titanic as a real-life report on the Kremlin's recent attempt to stake its claim to the riches of the Arctic Ocean.
Rossiya's images were distributed around the world, appearing on television news, websites and as "screen grabs" in newspapers.
It took an alert teenager in Finland with a Titanic DVD to spot the sham. Waltteri Seretin, 13, recognised the images in the national daily, Ilta-Sanomat.
"I was looking at the photo of the Russian sub expedition and I noticed immediately that there was something familiar about the picture," he told the paper.
"I checked it with my DVD and there it was, right there in the beginning of the movie; exactly the same image of the submersibles approaching the ship."
James Cameron's film about the 1912 disaster opens with a scene of mini-subs diving to inspect the wreck of the Titanic. In the Russian report, expedition images from the movie were inserted into real footage and bore an on-screen caption reading "northern Arctic Ocean".
As the Titanic images were shown, a correspondent said: "When the mini-submarine got to 300 metres, the unloading of the second sub began."
In fact, a Finnish company made the mini-subs the Russians used and Cameron used them in his film. But it is thought the scene from the movie shown on Russian TV was originally filmed using models in a studio.
Rossiya is one of two state-controlled channels that have been turned into propaganda tools under President Vladimir Putin and it is the second time in two weeks that the Vesti news program has faked a broadcast.
Ten days ago, it mocked up a copy of The Times newspaper to make it appear as though the paper had run a critical article about London-based businessman Boris Berezovsky on its front page. The article actually appeared in the comment section.
Rossiya refused to comment on the polar footage, but the boy who identified it gave a damning indictment of the show. "I have heard that they don't always tell the truth in Russia but I didn't think they could have screwed it up that badly," he said.
Moscow trumpeted the polar expedition as a PR coup in its effort to prove the Arctic is Russian, and veteran explorer Artur Chilingarov and his team returned to a heroes' welcome.
The TV fiasco adds fresh controversy to the expedition, which caused resentment among northern hemisphere nations seeking their share of the Arctic's energy riches - at least 10 billion tonnes of hydrocarbons.
Alexei Simonov, of the Glasnost Defence Foundation, said the channel had attempted to dupe viewers. "This is a sign of the sheer unprofessionalism that reigns when television is turned into a pawn of the authorities," he said