How Russian created a deepfake video of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy telling its citizens to lay down arms

During the latest hours, a deepfake video in which Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy allegedly asks his citizens to lay down their arms began to circulate. It has been considerate as part of the disinformation campaign deployed by various groups of threat actors linked to the Russian government.

“It turns out it’s not that easy to be president… My advice to you is to lay down your arms and return to your families. It’s not worth dying in this war,” can be heard in this video.

The low quality of the video and the notable errors of proportion in the body of the alleged Ukrainian president make it clear that this is a disinformation attempt. Various media and specialists noticed other things, such as pixelation errors in the face of the fake Zelenskyy or variations between the Zelenskyy’s real voice and the voice of the imposter.

Zelenskyy, who posts text or video messages through his social media whenever he is able to, has already spoken out about it. “As for the latest childish provocation with the advice to lay down arms, I only advise that the troops of the Russian Federation lay down their arms and return home,” he said via his Twitter account.

The deepfake message would have been distributed thanks to the hacking of the Ukrainian channel TV24. The video went viral on social media, including Facebook, though soon after the platform realized it was a hoax: “We identified and removed a video showing Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy sharing a message he never actually said,” said a statement from Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Meta.

The armed conflict between the two nations seems far from over and has spread to every possible field, including in the form of disinformation and cyberwarfare. A couple of weeks ago, the Stratcom Centre, Ukraine’s center for strategic communications and information security, warned about disinformation campaigns operated by Russia and using deepfake technology.

While it’s easy to debunk these fake photos, audios, or videos, the speed at which information is reproduced and shared makes it difficult to contain the distribution of false or intentionally misleading information, which reaches millions of users around the world in a matter of minutes.

To learn more about information security risks, malware variants, vulnerabilities and information technologies, feel free to access the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) websites.