French planes did not accidentally create the Russian flag during a display

28 May 2024
What was claimed

A French aerobatics team mixed up the sequence of colours during a display, creating the Russian flag instead of the French one.

Our verdict

There’s no evidence for that. While from one angle the display did resemble the Russian flag, when the footage is viewed from the intended angle, it is clear that the colours are in the correct sequence to display the French flag.

Multiple videos published on Facebook are being shared with claims they show French pilots from an elite aerobatics team accidentally creating the Russian flag instead of the French one during an aerial display. 

One post says: “The Russian flag appeared in the sky over French Marseille. The elite aerobatic team Patrouille de France mixed up the sequence of colors of the national flag and painted the Russian tricolor in the sky. This happened during the arrival of the Olympic flame in the city.”

The French flag and the Russian flag both feature the same three colours—red, white and blue—but the French flag displays them as vertical stripes and the Russian flag as horizontal bands. In addition, the French flag, when viewed from left to right, features blue, then white then red. The Russian flag, when viewed top to bottom, features white, then blue then red. 

The flypast took place earlier this month to mark the arrival of the Olympic flame on French soil, ahead of the start of the Games in Paris on 26 July.

The video clip accompanying the posts shows a side-on view of a group of eight jets flying across the sky and then releasing white, red and blue smoke trails. It appears that white trail is closest, followed by the blue and then the red. 

Fact checkers from Germany have explained the colours appear to be in the ‘wrong’ order from this angle because the planes releasing the white smoke are flying slightly higher than the rest of the formation, despite being in the middle of the group. This means it appears that white is the first colour in the sequence, followed by blue and red, as seen in the Russian flag. 

When the display is viewed from the intended angle, such as the one posted on X (formerly Twitter) by French President Emmanual Macron, the colours do indeed appear in the order blue, then white then red, matching the French flag. Footage of the event published on the official YouTube channel of the Olympic Games also confirms that the colours were displayed in the correct pattern.

Misinformation, often in the form of misleading or miscaptioned videos, can spread widely on social media during unfolding global events. You can read more about how to identify such content in our guides to fact checking images and videos.

Image courtesy of Rafael Garcin

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