Russian media cited fake rumors of a Mossad agent named 'Eli Copter' being involved in the helicopter crash that killed Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi

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  • An online meme about a fake Mossad agent called "Eli Copter" the lampoons the helicopter crash of Iran's president.

  • But it's been cited repeatedly by several media sources, including Russia's state TV.

  • Missing the joke, Russian TV host Vladimir Solvoyov cited the name to back up his criticism of Israel.

An online joke about Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi being killed in a helicopter crash by a Mossad agent named "Eli Copter" has fooled several media outlets — including Russian state TV host Vladimir Solovyov.

In a Monday episode of Solovyov's show, the host cited the meritless claim in an attempt to imply that the Israeli government was to blame for the death of Raisi.

Raisi, 63, died on Sunday in a helicopter crash alongside several senior officials in northwest Iran, with state media saying the vehicle struck a mountainside.

The Iranian leader died amid heavy fog and bad weather at the scene of the crash, making it difficult for rescue teams to find his downed helicopter and determine his condition at the time.

While there is no evidence that foul play was involved, some online have tried to pin the incident as an assassination carried out by Israel or the US.

An Israeli official said Tel Aviv was not involved in the crash, which Solovyov challenged.

"When Israel says: 'No, no, it was not us.' Hold on, if it was you, would you admit it?" he said, per a translation by Russia Media Monitor.

He aired a clip of a political analyst, Daniel Haik, speaking on the French broadcast of Israeli TV channel i24 News of a rumor that the Mossad agent "Eli Copter" was involved in Raisi's death.

That makes Solovyov a major piece of a misinformation chain that originated from a meme on Twitter parodying the word "helicopter."

Several people reporting about Raisi's death seemed to have missed the joke. A Hamas-affiliated Telegram channel named Correspondent of the al-Qassam Brigades cited the faux moniker in an initial report, though it deleted the message afterward, per France24News.

Haik later quoted the Hamas message on i24, saying that the involvement of "Eli Copter" was a rumor that couldn't yet be confirmed.

When reached by Business Insider, a spokesperson for i24 France apologized to viewers for the mistake on behalf of the broadcaster.

"We will learn from this incident and do everything possible to ensure that such errors do not happen again," the spokesperson said.

But that didn't stop Solovyov's show from using the clip of Haik to back up his criticism of the US and Israel, as he implied they might be responsible for Raisi's death.

Solovyov is seen as one of Russia's most prominent propagandists for the Kremlin, and habitually pushes aggressive, pro-war rhetoric against the West.

Russia, an ally of Iran, offered condolences to Tehran after Raisi's death, calling the now-deceased president a "true friend" and an "outstanding politician."

Both nations have been deepening their economic ties since Moscow invaded Ukraine, which has increasingly alienated Russia from the global economy. Sanctioned by Washington, they agreed last year to start trading in local currencies instead of the US dollar.

According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, run by the MIT Media Lab, trade between the two countries was worth about $2 billion in 2021.

An analysis by the Center for European Policy Analysis in January estimated that trade between them may have risen to $4.9 billion.

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