A video circulating online purportedly shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky telling his countrymen to surrender to Russia — but experts say the footage isn’t real.
The 68-second deepfake clip appeared Wednesday on social media platforms, seemingly showing the 44-year-old leader saying his tenure as president has “not been easy” while staring intently into a camera.
“It is time to face the truth,” Zelensky appeared to say on the manipulated clip. “It didn’t work out … There is no more future. At least for me.”
The heavily doctored clip continues with the Ukrainian president seemingly telling his citizens to surrender.
“And now I’m taking another hard decision to say goodbye to you,” the clip went on. “I advise you to lay down your arms and return to your families. You shouldn’t die in this war.
“I advise you to live, and I’m going to do the same,” the fake footage concludes.
Meta’s head of security policy tweeted Wednesday that its teams had identified and removed the deepfake video.
“It appeared on a reportedly compromised website and then started showing across the internet,” Nathaniel Gleicher wrote. “We’ve quickly reviewed and removed this video for violating our policy against misleading manipulated media, and notified our peers at other platforms.”
The video and its subsequent uploads have also been removed from YouTube for violating the company’s misinformation policies, a spokesperson told CNN.
Twitter is tracking down how the footage was shared on its platform as well — and taking “enforcement action” where appropriate, a spokesperson told the network.
The actual Zelensky, appeared in a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense saying he would not surrender in the ongoing fight against Russian troops.
“We are at home and defending Ukraine,” a defiant Zelensky said. “We are not going to lay down any weapons. To our victory.”
It’s unclear who created the rendering, but it was placed on a Ukrainian news website by hackers Wednesday. The footage then circulated prominently on social media in Russia, NPR reported.
Digital media forensics experts told NPR the deepfake — while not entirely well-done — could represent just the beginning of Russia’s misinformation war.
“This is the first one we’ve seen that really got some legs, but I suspect it’s the tip of the iceberg,” University of California-Berkeley professor Hany Farid said. “It pollutes the information ecosystem, and it casts a shadow on all content, which is already dealing with the complex fog of war.”
Farid said it could lead some Ukrainians to not believe what they see when Zelensky goes on television next and ask themselves, “Wait a minute — is this real?”
The low-quality recording was the first sign something was amiss, Farid told CNN. Zelensky as seen in the video also looks straight ahead the entire time without moving his arms — which would’ve been harder to convincingly pull off, he said.
Another expert from Witness, a Brooklyn-based human rights group, said the video wasn’t especially believable — even to untrained eyes. Other viewers online noted Zelensky’s accent seemed off and his head and voice didn’t appear to be authentic, NPR reported.
“The deepfake is not very well done,” Sam Gregory of the nonprofit group told NPR.