9 Doctored Pics and Deepfakes of Volodymyr Zelenskyy

The Ukrainian president has long been the subject of viral fauxtography and misleading videos.

Published Mar 4, 2023

 (Image Via Matt Dunham/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Image Via Image Via Matt Dunham/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been the subject of numerous false rumors, particularly in the form of doctored or misleading photographs and video footage.

From a manipulated deepfake video of Zelenskyy supposedly telling Ukrainian soldiers to surrender to Russia to false claims he displayed Nazi logos on his clothes, there is no shortage of examples.

Snopes has debunked the below-listed pieces of visual content that aim to show Zelenskyy in situations that compromise his stance as a wartime president, and/or support Russian propaganda efforts.

(The entries are ranked in no particular order, and contain excerpts from Snopes' archives.)

No, Zelenskyy did not wear a neo-Nazi symbol on his shirt.

In March 2022, social media users circulated images from one of Zelenskyy's daily video messages that they said showed him displaying a neo-Nazi symbol known as the "Iron Cross" on his t-shirt. The claim drew on the popular conspiracy theory that Zelenskyy is a neo-Nazi or holds views sympathetic to Naziism. The smear was designed to justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Zelenskyy, who is Jewish and whose great uncle died in the Holocaust, was not wearing a Nazi symbol on his shirt during the in-question video message. Rather, his shirt displayed a cross that is the official emblem of the Ukrainian armed forces. (You can read the full fact check here.)

No, Zelenskyy does not have a body double.

We frequently debunk "body double" or "clone" conspiracy theories that target celebrities, politicians, and other public figures. In this case, claims spread online that Zelenskyy supposedly had a body double by citing images of a man following him during U.S. President Joe Biden's February 2023 visit to Ukraine.

The man in question was Zelenskyy's longtime bodyguard Maksym Donets, who was appointed head of the president's personal bodyguard team in May 2019. (You can read the full fact check here.)

No, this video doesn't show Zelenskyy singing John Lennon's "Imagine."

A March 2022 video incorrectly claimed to show Zelenskyy performing John Lennon's "Imagine."

In reality, Alejandro Manzano — who was the lead singer of the Florida cover band Boyce Avenue and bears a slight resemblance to Zelenskyy — is the man performing in the video. He posted it on his YouTube page in 2017. (You can read the full fact check here.) 

Before that, another video of Manzano and a female singer went viral with internet users falsely claiming it showed Zelenskyy and his wife. (You can read that fact check here.)

No, this is not a real photograph of Zelenskyy in an Afro hairdo at a Pride parade.

In late 2022, a photograph purportedly showing Zelenskyy wearing short shorts and an Afro hairstyle circulated on social media.

It was a manipulated image; Someone had cropped an image of Zelenksyy's face and superimposed it onto a photograph of someone else with the outfit and hairstyle at the parade. (You can read the full fact check here.

No, Zelenskyy did not ask civilians to lay down their arms to the Russian military.

In March 2022, a badly done deepfake video of Zelenskyy asking Ukrainian civilians to lay down their arms against Russia went viral. In addition to gaining attention on social media, a summary of the video was broadcast on a Ukrainian news station after it was reportedly hacked.

Zelenskyy appeared to address the rumor by posting a video on his Facebook page that included the caption, "We are at home and defending Ukraine." (You can read the full fact check here.) 

No, there was no cocaine on Zelenskyy's desk during a call with Elon Musk.

Viral in spring 2022, a video claimed to show Zelenskyy with cocaine on his desk during a video call with billionaire Elon Musk. The footage spread on Telegram and on numerous Russian-language sites and blogs.

The clip, however, was doctored. It was created by digitally adding cocaine and a credit card to a genuine video of Zelenskyy chatting with Musk via video call. (You can read the full fact check here.)

No, this is not a real picture of Zelenskyy holding a swastika jersey.

Continuing with the trend of falsely claiming Zelenskyy has Nazi ties, in March 2022, a picture of the president holding a jersey with a swastika logo went viral. 

This was another piece of propaganda and was created from a genuine photograph of Zelenskyy holding a jersey of the national team of Ukraine ahead of Euro 2020. (You can read the full fact check here.) 

No, this is not Zelenskyy singing "Endless Love" with his wife.

In March 2022, another video circulated on social media that supposedly showed Zelenskyy singing — this time, with his wife, Olena Zelenska.

Again, this footage actually depicted Alejandro Manzano from the Florida cover band Boyce Avenue. In the clip, Manzano, who bears a slight resemblance to Zelenskyy, sings a cover of "Endless Love" with British singer Connie Talbot.

Though Zelenskyy did have a successful entertainment career —he performed on Ukraine's "Dancing With the Stars," appeared in a popular satirical television show, and more — singing "Endless Love" with his wife was not part of his repertoire. (You can read the full fact check here.) 

No, this is not a real Time magazine cover labeling him "Ladimir Elensky."

Time magazine covers frequently serve as fodder for digitally manipulated images.

In April 2022, one purportedly featuring Zelenskyy and labeling him "Ladimir Elensky" went viral. According to the cover, the president decided to no longer use the letters "Z" and "V" because they were considered to be symbols of support for Russia.

The cover was fabricated, and Zelenskyy had not altered the spelling of his name. (You can read the full fact check here.) 

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

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