Iranian President Dies in Helicopter Crash: Russian Disinformation Digest

Written by Matt Wickham HWAG/UCMC analyst

After a night of extensive rescue missions following the crash of the Iranian President’s helicopter, it was confirmed that Ebrahim Raisi, the second-most powerful person in the Islamic Republic after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had died. The period leading up to the official confirmation saw a significant storm not only in the weather, making it harder for operational recovery, but in the Russian propaganda information space.

The narrative predictably shifted through various stages: initial shock, denial, confirmation, conspiracy theories blaming the West, and even a CIA sabotage based on evidence that there is a US TV series that depicts a similar event. The whirlwind of the narrative suggests a chaotic and unmanaged journey through Russian propaganda channels in an attempt to control the narrative.

The HWAG team has gathered, analyzed, and debunked some of the narratives pushed in the wake of the incident.

Narrative: It’s sabotage


One of the narratives Russian propaganda spread after the initial shock of the news was the reliability of the aircraft in question. First thought to be a Mil Mi-8 helicopter, propaganda channels started spewing in-depth analytical messages about the Soviet-designed helicopter’s previous track record of having almost no recorded incidents. And so, they called into question the validity of an “accident”. After all, admitting such faults would be another blow to the Kremlin’s military industry, especially as international partners already see the much-hyped Kinzhal and Zircon missiles—touted as untouchable by Putin—as vulnerable to Western defense systems. However, after official confirmation, the aircraft was reported to be an American made Bell 212, also known for its reliability.

The message spread during the storm of disinformation was, in essence, “Ask yourself who wins from this,” immediately sowing the seed of doubt. Propagandists claimed with almost full certainty that someone had to be in the driving seat of this attack, conveniently putting to one side the reports of the bad weather—fog, making visibility practically zero. Instead, it has to be the work of the enemy, they said.

By suggesting that the crash was likely due to sabotage or an assassination attempt, propagandists aim to deflect blame away from potential mechanical failure, pilot error, or the recklessness of flying into a hazardous zone where weather was seriously deteriorating. This is confirmed by the rescue operation taking longer than expected and by rescuers going missing in the search.

The helicopter hadn’t even been found when, minutes after the news emerged, Russian statesmen, journalists, and politicians began implicating other countries with baseless certainty. Despite no information from the Iranian press suggesting sabotage, Russian officials presented these claims as undeniable truth.

Evgeny Popov: 48,000 followers 

“The Mi-171 is one of the most reliable helicopters in the world. In nearly thirty years of operation, there have been no more than a dozen incidents. I wouldn’t be surprised if the crash was the result of an attack on the President of Iran. Raisi has many enemies.”

Armen Gasparyan: 208,000 followers

“Cui prodest is clear. But who is the executor?”

Yulia Vityazeva: 70,000 followers

“Whatever the case may be, but on the farmstead, there’s already a victory and wild leaps. I hope the Iranians are monitoring all the reactions to the current news and will comment on all this later. And not with words, but with actions.”

Bovt Knows (Russian telegram channel): 28,000 followers

“Sometimes a plane or helicopter crash is just an accident, and not what many immediately think of, applying the traditional question in such cases: “Who benefits?” Well, and immediately looking for the corresponding trail, of course.”

Bovt Knows (Russian telegram channel): 28,000 followers

“The topic is gaining traction: the helicopter couldn’t have fallen just like that. Even in fog. The enemies caused it too.”

Narrative: Conspiracy theory: “First they go for Fizo, now Iran”


Following the initial lack of attention to Fizo’s assassination attempt in both international media and propaganda circles, propagandists made a second attempt to revive the narrative of “the West behind unlawful attacks on state officials.” However, amidst these conspiracy theories, even Russian propagandists, including the Ukrainian traitor Oleg Tsarov, expressed skepticism. 

Tsarov remarked that it seems unlikely Iran’s enemies could have orchestrated the assassination given the dense fog, which would have hindered helicopters flying in pairs from detecting the disappearance of a third nearby. 

“Of course, anything is possible, but chance must be considered. Not every tragedy or disaster involves intent and organization,” – Tsarov said.

Conspiracy theories simplify complex situations, sensationalize events, and sway public opinion by providing simplistic narratives. They cater to those seeking surface-level explanations, frequently exaggerating events to enhance their appeal. By exploiting preexisting beliefs and biases, propaganda cultivates an “us versus them” narrative, portraying Russia as a victim of a “deceitful” West. This track aims to sow confusion and erode trust in truth by inundating audiences with contradictory narratives, making it challenging to discern fact from fiction.

Moreover, historical evidence suggests that Russia, particularly during Putin’s presidency, has engaged in assassination attempts targeting figures both domestically and abroad to achieve operational success, whatever this operation may be. This includes numerous attempts on a sitting president’s life, the Ukrainian President Zelensky after its full-scale invasion, and the poisoning of former President Yushchenko. Therefore, it would be fair to conclude that if any country has demonstrated a willingness to resort to such extreme measures to achieve its objectives, it is Russia.

Andrei Klinstevich: 40,400 followers

“Interesting points:

– Fragmentary information about an assassination attempt on the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia on May 6

– Information about an attempted coup in Turkey on May 15

– An assassination attempt on Fico on May 15

– On May 16, information about similar plans against Orban in Hungary and Vucic in Serbia

– Today, the helicopter crash with the President of Iran

Too many coincidences, especially since all these figures are extremely inconvenient for the USA and the West in general.”

Margarita Simonyan: 568,000 followers

“ Raisi’s helicopter fell accidentally because of the fog, and a crazy old man shot Fico, and [someone shot] Olof Palme, and Kennedy. Shit happens. But it happens most reliably with careful professional preparation carried out by the masters of shit.”

Russian Senator Pushkov:

After the assassination attempt on Fico and the arrest of a suspect in the preparation of an attempt on President Vucic in Serbia – a possible attempt on the President of Iran Raisi.”

Mikhail Chaplyga (Ukrainian Traitor) shared through Mriya: 153,000 followers 

“The assassination attempt on Robert Fico in Slovakia. The timely uncovered and thwarted conspiracy by intelligence representatives against Turkish leader Erdogan. The assassination attempt on Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman. Today’s helicopter crash with Iranian President Raisi. And this is just in a month! Is the British [to blame]? Political analyst, Chaplyga hints”

Narrative: “We all know its the CIA, haven’t you watched the series “Homeland”?/” A practice-run for the Russian President?”


Since the Cold War era, Russian propaganda has depicted the CIA as dirty, dangerous, and an enemy of world order. With it being widely recognized as the top intelligence agency, the CIA often finds itself targeted by propaganda efforts. Russian propaganda has cultivated a myth depicting the CIA as operating beyond legal boundaries, contrasting it with Russia’s own services (oh, the irony), often returning to incidents and learned-from lessons like those in Iraq, black sites, and interrogation torture to support this narrative. 

Employing potray and project tactics, propaganda consistently tells how its the CIA that is responsible for assasinations abroad, often in collaboration with its “Anglo-Saxon” partners, a word state propagandists love to throw around. 

The most, Aleksandr Dugin, often referred to as the “Brain of Putin,” could do to bolster these baseless claims of a CIA operation was to draw a parallel between the helicopter crash and a similar event depicted in the popular American TV series “Homeland.” He suggested that modern technology could facilitate such an occurrence, yet provided no specifics on how this would be achieved. This reliance on ambiguity and a TV program to support his argument underscores the absurdity of the narrative and merely shows the architect of Putin’s philosophy to be nothing short of crazy.

Kirill Frolov: 70,000 followers

“American officials are openly joyful about the assassination attempt on Russia’s close friend. It is obvious that the Mossad, at the behest of the CIA, carried out the assassination.”

Andrei Klintsevich: 40,400 followers

“Most likely, the Americans already know who, what, and when. They are simply throwing out the necessary messages now to deflect suspicion from themselves and, of course, from Israel. This is because the US needs to instigate internal discord in Iran, not its consolidation.”

Valery Skurlatov: 369,000 followers

“The CIA recklessly eliminates undesirable leaders worldwide. First Fizo, today Raisi, the President of Iran. And tomorrow it could be our President and the leader of China, who dared not submit to the Yankee’s will? FSO, FSB, GRU, SVR take note. We need to enhance the security of the country’s leaders and try to keep them in “permanent deployment” for as long as possible. Putin’s planned visit to Turkey – cancel.”

Sergei Markov: 69000 followers

“Almost all Iranians and Muslims believe it was a terrorist act organized by Israel in retaliation against Raisi’s tough stance against Israel.”

AGDchan (Aleksandr Dugin) : 65,000 followers

“It is entirely possible that the helicopter crash with the President of Iran was a sabotage. Modern technology allows for this to happen. In the American series “Homeland,” there was a plot about a helicopter crash with the American president on board in Afghanistan, also in mountainous terrain, and his death in the crash.”