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Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu
By Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu December 13, 2023

‘Blood red river’ photo shared out of context on social media

If Your Time is short

  • This video shows Russia’s Iskitimka River in 2020, when local officials said it turned  red because of possible contamination from the city’s drainage system.

A Facebook video shows a red river streaming through a snowy landscape.

"Just another river in Russia turned blood red," a man says over the scene. "Didn’t the Bible say something about this? Could this be retribution for all the heinous acts they have committed? Or could it be retribution for the heinous acts committed against them?"

The Dec. 8 video’s caption went further: "Is this river turning red in Russia a biblical omen? #Bible #Nature #Russia"

The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Although the scene is startling, the video omits important context. In 2020, the Daily Mail, a British newspaper, reported that the Iskitimka River in Russia's far-east Siberia region had turned the beetroot color. Local officials said the discoloration possibly resulted from contamination from the city’s drainage system.

Still images that resemble the scene depicted in the Facebook video appeared in news stories about that event, including stories from Yahoo News Australia and CNN News-18 in India. Both pieces credited the image to what was then a Twitter account named @mudakoff; the account appears to have since been suspended.  

Featured Fact-check

The 2020 event was not the first time a Russian water body became discolored. In 2016, the Daldykan River in the Arctic town of Norilsk also reddened, news outlets reported. That was blamed on spillage from a metallurgical plant run by a nickel producer.

The Associated Press fact-checked a similar claim about the reddening of the Nile River, Africa’s longest river. In that case, the image showed a lagoon in northern Chile that is naturally red and sacred to the local Aymara Indigenous people. A marine biologist told the AP that mineral dyes discolors the river’s water.

We rate the claim that this image shows a Russian river turned red because of a Biblical omen or divine "retribution" False. 

PolitiFact Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story.

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‘Blood red river’ photo shared out of context on social media

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