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No, the video of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy urging surrender isn’t real. It’s a deepfake

The VERIFY team confirmed a video of Ukraine President Zelenskyy telling his people to surrender is a deepfake. It was created using images from press conferences.

On March 16, a video claiming to show Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calling for the Ukrainian people to surrender to Russia was aired on news station Ukraine 24, and circulated on social media

The Ukrainian government had previously warned its citizens that Russian saboteurs might be circulating deepfake videos of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. A deepfake is when an image or video of a person has been technologically generated to appear real.

After the video was aired and shared across social networks, some online users said the video was a deepfake. The Ukrainian National Guard also issued a warning about the fake video on Twitter

THE QUESTION

Is the video of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy telling his people to surrender to Russia on March 16 real?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, this video is not real. It is a deepfake. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a message on his social media pages that the video was a “childish provocation” and Russia should be the one to lay down arms.

VERIFY was able to confirm this video was a deepfake using video forensics tools and reverse image searching. 

WHAT WE FOUND

A deepfake is made using artificial intelligence technologies, like programs that can be used to replace or synthesize faces, speech or expressions of emotions. The deepfake of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy allegedly surrendering to Russian forces aired on Ukrainian TV station Ukraine 24 on March 16. In the video, Zelenskyy appears to be telling Ukrainian citizens to lay down arms and return to their families in order to survive.

The video is fake. Using video forensics tools and reverse image searching, VERIFY can confirm that this video was computer-generated using still images from Zelenskyy’s earlier press conferences.

Zelenskyy’s face was superimposed onto the body in the deepfake. The face we see talking was generated from this still image taken of Zelenskyy at a press conference on March 3. The mouth on the photo was manipulated to appear as if Zelenskyy was actually talking. 

The background of the video also remains completely static, and lines up precisely to this photo, which shows Zelenskyy at a press conference held on Feb. 24. Using TinEye reverse image search tool, VERIFY was able to compare existing photos to the deepfake. 

In the deepfake, Zelenskyy appears much taller, with broader shoulders and a different facial structure, compared to his appearances at earlier press conferences standing behind the same podium. 

Credit: VERIFY

Ukraine 24 posted on its Telegram channel (in Ukrainian, translated via Google Translate) that the video aired while the station was under attack by hackers. 

“Ukraine 24 TV channel and Segodnya website was hacked by hostile hackers and Zelenskyy's reports about the alleged ‘surrender’ were broadcast. Friends, we have repeatedly warned about this. This is a fake! Nobody is going to give up. Especially in conditions when the Russian army is defeated in battles with the Ukrainian army!‼” Ukraine 24 said on Telegram. 

In response to the video airing on a national television station, Zelenskyy posted his own message to the people of Ukraine across his social networks. 

“As for the latest children's provocation, which I offered to lay down my arms, I can offer to lay down arms and return home only to the Russian military. And we are already at home, we are protecting our children, our families. We are not going to lay down any weapons before our victory,” Zelenskyy said.

The VERIFY team works to separate fact from fiction so that you can understand what is true and false. Please consider subscribing to our daily newsletter, text alerts and our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Learn More »

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