Olena Zelenska falls victim to deepfake video claiming she bought a Bugatti

Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska is the latest victim of deepfake after an online video falsely claimed that she had purchased a rare Bugatti sports car worth €4.5m (£3.8m).

The video, suspected to be from Russian propaganda sources, claimed Ms Zelenska was given a closed presentation to buy a Bugatti Tourbillon for the use of the Ukrainian delegation during her visit to Paris for D-Day commemorations in June last week.

“This is a fake and another attempt by Russians to discredit the family of the President of Ukraine,” said Ukrainian fact-checking unit Centre for Countering Disinformation (CCD), under the national security and defence council.

Ms Zelenska’s deepfake was launched by “Russian propagandists before the Nato summit in order to discredit Ukraine’s top leadership in the international arena”, the Ukrainian agency said.

The statement added that the deepfake video was first spotted on a French publication called Verite Cachee “which was created just nine days ago on 22 June 2024”.

The French publication used a social media post by a man posing as an employee of Bugatti from a profile with only four posts on Instagram. The profile, which also showed signs of being created recently, had posted a purported invoice of the sale, CCD said.

This French website has reported on the Russian invasion of Ukraine but only from Moscow’s perspective, the CCD said.

Bugatti’s official partner in France issued an official statement and denied any such purchase or existence of transaction in a strongly worded statement. It also called out the “disinformation campaign”.

The automobile group said it “strongly denies both the existence of the transaction and, consequently, the existence of the invoice”.

“A supposed salesman claiming to belong to the Car Lovers Group and its sports label Schumacher Group, published a video on social networks in which he indicated that the Bugatti Paris dealership sold a vehicle to the Ukrainian presidential couple,” the statement posted on its social media account read.

The group said its dealership in Paris has fallen victim to several criminal offences.

Bugatti has filed a criminal complaint for “forgery, use of forgeries and usurpation of identity and defamation”, the statement said, adding that the popular automobile company has initiated legal action.

This is not the first time the first lady of Ukraine has been subjected to deepfake by propagandists. In December 2022, misinformation was debunked which claimed Ms Zelenska had gone on a €40,000 shopping spree in Paris.

The account on X, formerly Twitter, which falsely cited an unnamed “reliable source” and “an employee at the store on Avenue Montaigne” was found to be geolocated to Saint Petersburg, Florida, US.

“The story displayed traits similar to those of the fake Bugatti video – it was published on Twitter/X by an unverified user called De Fabron Olivier,” said United24, a Ukrainian government-run platform.

Independent experts have also said the latest video shows tell-tale signs of being a deepfake.

Clément Briens, a researcher at the cybersecurity company Recorded Future, flagged the way the man’s head moves with the torso almost completely stable. He told CNN that the video has cuts, a strange accent and lip-and-mouth movements.

The CCD said it is “worth noting that the man in (Zelenska’s) video shows signs of an artificially generated deepfake”.