A video viewed millions of times on social media appears to show Volodymyr Zelensky dancing in a form-fitting red costume. But the clip is altered, the latest deepfake of the Ukrainian president to spread amid the country’s war with Russia. Zelensky’s face was swapped onto the body of a Russian TikTok user who posted the original in 2020.
The Ukrainian leader, who used to work as an actor, is regularly targeted on social media in posts that try to ridicule or slander him. Many of these false posts repeat unsubstantiated pro-Kremlin claims that have flooded social media since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
The post has been shared on social media more than 3,800 times in Greece since early January 2024, for example in this Facebook post which asks ironically, “Who is this, do you know?” The post was also shared in Cyprus.
But this is not Zelensky. The video has been altered. A search of the internet finds the original dates from 2020 when it was posted on TikTok by a Russian dancer and model.
Screenshots of the false Facebook posts. Image download:12/01/2023
Another Facebook post, which was shared more than 580 times in Greek, reads: “They couldn’t have found a better willing person to finish his country … “. It draws a parallel with Stefanos Kasselakis, president of the Greek opposition party Syriza, who is referred to as “Kasse”.
@vusaaal Танцы, мои танцы, как вам ? Современна или восток ?
#рекомендации#рек#НиШагуБезDETTOL#танцы♬ оригинальный звук – Insta: Vusaaaal
The video’s caption reads in Russian: “My dance, my dance, what do you think? Modern or oriental?”
Comparing this video to the one shared on Facebook, it is clearly the same except that the Ukrainian president’s face has been added on to the dancer’s head in the hoax version, as shown in the comparison of the screenshots below:
Screenshot of the TikTok video (left) and the video used in the false Facebook posts (right). The red cross was added by AFP. Image download: 12/01/2023
“Vusaaal” also has an Instagram account, where his name appears as Vusal Mehdiyev. He is described as a blogger who has taken part in a Russian reality show. He regularly posts videos and photos on his social networks, dancing or posing as a model.
AFP contacted him via his social networks but had not received a reply by the time of publication.
Zelensky a frequent target of disinformation
Zelensky worked in the entertainment industry as an actor and comedian before being elected president of Ukraine in April 2019.
In September 2023 another fake video claiming to show him dancing was shared on social media. This time his face was placed on the body of an Argentinian dancer.