On June 24, 2022, a video was posted to Reddit's r/interestingasfuck subreddit with the title, "Russian air defense system missile shoots itself in Luhansk region." According to the post, the video, which was said to have been shot at night in Ukraine, showed a Russian missile following a "boomerang" pattern due to a malfunction, ending with it striking and blowing up in the same location where it was launched. However, some users found what looked to be an alternate angle of the same missile being fired that appeared to show it did not land on its own launch site. It was all a matter of perspective, they said.
One popular tabloid website published the headline, "Return to sender! Russian surface-to-air missile does a U-TURN and smashes into the troops who fired it in spectacular malfunction." Another headline said, "Russian Air Defense System Suffers Epic Malfunction, Video Shows." However, the articles underneath these two headlines said that details about the videos were either "unverified" or "unclear."
In fact, within the article accompanied by the headline that said the missile "smashed into the troops who fired it," it was also stated that "there were no reports on casualties suffered by Russian and separatist forces in the mishap."
The So-Called 'Boomerang' Missile Launch
The video in question was also posted on Twitter. It went viral at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was entering its fifth month:
The missile launch illuminated the night sky. That illumination showed at least three additional smoke trail patterns, which looked to have come from previous missiles that were fired minutes before the supposed "boomerang" missile launch.
Various social media messages said the video was recorded in the city of Alchevs'k in Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine. The clip may have first been posted to the Telegram messenger app on the evening of June 23 in U.S. time zones. Russia and Ukraine are several time zones ahead of the U.S., so it's possible that the missile video was recorded in the early morning hours of June 24. We were unable to find the exact recording time and date, but will update this story if we locate those details.
According to Twitter users, another video captured from a different angle showed the same Russian missile following the supposed "boomerang" pattern, seemingly landing where troops launched the projectile:
What looked to be the same three smoke trail patterns from the other video were also visible in this second clip. This indicated to us that both videos showed the same "boomerang" missile launch:
A third video appeared to show the same three smoke trail patterns that appeared in the other two videos as well, which suggested to us that they all showed the same missile being launched.
"It didn't actually hit the launcher. It's just the camera angle," a Reddit user commented. "Here is a better angle showing the missile hitting far from the launcher."
This looked to be the best angle, as it showed in a fairly clear way that the missile did not strike its own launch site.
A Twitter user named @bayraktar_1love also tweeted a picture that claimed to show a fire caused by the "boomerang" missile. We asked the user about who shot the photograph. They told us only that their sources were relatives and friends. (According to the Twitter bio, the user lives in the city of Kherson, which is located far away from Alchevs'k.)
We will update this story if we find more data that might provide further confirmation of this picture.
In sum, several videos did appear to show a Russian missile landing short of where other missiles had been launched in the minutes prior, likely due to a malfunction of some sort. However, there's no evidence that it flew back directly into the area from which it was launched, nor was there any data that showed it injured or killed Russian troops. An alternate angle of what appeared to be the same missile being fired showed that it did not land on its own launch site.
We are still looking for additional information, photographs, and videos that would confirm more about the missile launch, its aftermath, and the soldiers who were involved. As with any war, it may be difficult to confirm data about isolated incidents like this one. However, we will be sure to update this article if we learn further details.