In November, a considerable amount of disinformation about the alleged conflict between the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valeri Zaluzhnyi was disseminated by the Kremlin media and social networks. In the spring of 2023, Russia tried to convince the public about the alleged death of Valery Zaluzhny as a result of a missile fire near Kherson, indicating that the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has been a target of Russian propaganda for several months now.
In recent weeks, the following assertions about Valery Zaluzhn and Volodymyr Zelensky have been disseminated on social networks:
- Zaluzhnyi was removed from his position;
- Volodymyr Zelenskyy eliminated Zaluzhnyi’s aide, and Zaluzhnyi announced a military coup in Ukraine;
- Zaluzhnyi called on the military to leave the battlefield and overthrow Zelenskyy’s government;
- Zelenskyy announced that Zaluzhnyi was dead and that narcotic substances were found in his house;
- Leaflets are being distributed in Zhytomyr urging the population to make the right choice (in favor of Zaluzhnyi and against Zelenskyy).
It should also be noted that videos created with Deepfake technology were used to spread disinformation.
On November 7, information about the alleged decision of the Ukrainian authorities to dismiss the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valery Zaluzhnyi, was actively disseminated on social media. Regarding this, Volodymyr Ariev, a deputy of the “European Solidarity” party, wrote on Facebook that the Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Rustem Umierov, asked the president to release Zaluzhnyi, however, within a few minutes, Ariev deleted the post and called the information spread by him a mistake.
The Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Rustem Umierov, responded to the news about Zaluzhnyi’s alleged removal and compared Ariev’s statement to the activities of Russian propagandists.
Arguably, this information prepared the basis for the video in which Zaluzhnyi calls on the population to “overthrow” the government. On the same day, a fake video created by Deepfake technology/artificial intelligence was disseminated in Russian-language news agencies and social networks in a coordinated manner, in which Zaluzhnyi called Zelenskyy a traitor and called on the military to disobey the “criminal orders” of the government. In addition, in the fabricated video, Zaluzhnyi accused Zelenskyy of killing his aide.
The veracity of the video was examined by “Myth Detector” as well. For more information, see the article:
According to the Center for Combating Disinformation, the author and the original source of this video is the Telegram channel “Радио Труха.” The same Telegram channel published two more fabricated videos of Zaluzhnyi on November 7-8. One video clip of Zaluzhnyi concerns the murder of his aide – in the Deepfake video Zaluzhnyi asks that he never be given anything for his birthday, echoing the death of Major Gennady Chastyakov, who was killed by an explosive device planted in one of his birthday presents. In the third fabricated video released on November 8, Zaluzhnyi says that all media in Ukraine belong to Zelenskyy, which is why it was predictable that the previous appeal was called a Deepfake and was labeled as Russian propaganda.
Later, on November 12-13, another video message of Zaluzhnyi created by Deepfake technology was spread on social networks and Russian-language news agencies (1, 2), which visually resembles one of the videos published by the Telegram channel Радио Труха. In the video, Zaluzhnui calls on the military to come out of the trenches and head to Kyiv to overthrow Zelenskyy’s regime.
In addition to Zaluzhnyi’s videos, on November 10, Радио Труха also published a video address of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. In the address, which also appears to be a video created using Deepfake technology, Zelenskyy says that Zaluzhnyi will not be able to deny the circulated videos because he is already dead and that he was accidentally detonated by a hand grenade. According to Zelenskyy, narcotic substances, which are widely distributed in Ukraine, were found in Zaluzhnyi’s house. Also, in the video, Zelenskyy accuses Zaluzhnyi of launching a counter-offensive and killing thousands of Ukrainians and notes that the war may last several decades, due to which Ukraine will no longer hold elections, the borders will be closed, and all Ukrainians, regardless of gender and age, will go to war, as Ukrainian land is more important than millions of Ukrainians. In addition to its dubious content, visual features, including unnatural facial expressions and lag between frames, indicate that the video is not authentic.
In 2022, another Deepfake video was created about Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in which the President of Ukraine called on the soldiers to lay down their arms and surrender.
Telegram channel Радио Труха belongs to the news and media category in the catalog of Telegram channels and chats. According to the channel description, Радио Труха broadcasts only important news, along with humor. It should be noted that in the videos created using Deepfake technology, “Zaluzhnyi” looks realistic (shadows, contours, lip synchronization with words, intonation, and facial expressions are very natural), which indicates the involvement of important forces and means in the information-psychological operation.
In addition to the fabricated videos, Russian news agencies (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and social networks spread another message in the form of booklet photographs of the Ukrainian president and the commander of the armed forces. The booklet, which, according to Russian sources, was distributed by unknown persons in the city of Zhytomyr, a campaign in support of Zaluzhnyi and against Zelenskyy had started in Ukraine.
The Russian Telegram channel Militarist (@infantmilirario) is believed to be the first source of this information, which posted a photo of the booklet at 02:11 am on November 10. The origin of the photo raises the suspicion that the mentioned booklet is part of the Kremlin’s information operation as well.
The photo of the mentioned booklet, on which Ukrainians are called to “make the right choice,” was shared by the Facebook page “Georgia First NEWS” and the member of the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster, Bondo Mdzinarishvili.
On November 10, the “Center for Combating Disinformation” of Ukraine responded to the information about the distribution of the booklet. The post notes that the photos are part of a Russian information-psychological operation that seeks to sow suspicions of a rift between Ukrainian President Zelensky and the top military leadership.
Kremlin’s Recurring Disinformation and the Interpretation of Zaluzhnyi’s Statements
Since the summer of 2022, Kremlin propaganda has been trying to convince the target audience about the alleged confrontation between Zelenskyy’s apparatus and Zaluzhnyi, and thereby cause a split in public opinion. About a year later, the Kremlin once again gained the opportunity to evaluate Zaluzhnyi’s messages as a confrontation with Zelenskyy and an attempt to seize power. On October 30, 2023, anonymous sources in the office of the President of Ukraine said in a comment to Time magazine that Zelenskyy appeared to be “blindly confident” of victory, given that the counteroffensive had “failed miserably.” After that, the British newspaper The Economist published an article by Valery Zaluzhnyi stating that the situation on the front has reached a stalemate and that Russia, despite heavy losses, will have an advantage for a long time in terms of weapons, equipment, missiles, and munitions.
According to a study published by Detector.media on November 10, anonymous Telegram channels and other Russian sources are interpreting Zaluzhnyi’s messages to make it appear that Ukraine has realized that the war is lost because “the Russian (Soviet) military school has overtaken the NATO governance model.” In addition, Russian propagandists point out that Valery Zaluzhnyi is trying to protect himself from responsibility for failures at the front with his article in The Economist, that Zaluzhnyi, as a military man, perfectly understands the real situation of the war, although it is difficult for the president’s office to critically assess the situation.
As mentioned at the beginning, this is not the first time disinformation has been spread about Zaluzhnyi; however, the fake news spread recently showed that the goal of the Kremlin’s propaganda is to influence the public in Ukraine and divide the Ukrainian society. In order to show the weakness of Ukraine on the front line, the Kremlin media also distributed a video manipulation, as if the commanders of one of the brigades of Ukraine had abandoned the military, although it turned out that the video does not depict Ukrainians, but Russian soldiers in disguise.
Disinformation as if Zaluzhnyi suffered multiple injuries as a result of a missile strike near Kherson was also part of the Russian information operation of March 2023. In addition, false social network accounts were created in the name of Valery Zaluzhnyi, which were also used to spread false information. Zaluzhnyi stated that he does not own the Telegram account @Zaluzhniy_ua, as well as other accounts with the name “Valery Zaluzhniy”.
For more information about the fake news disseminated about Zaluzhnyi, see:
- DOES THE BRACELET OF VALERII ZALUZHNYI FEATURE A SWASTIKA?
- VALERII ZALUZHNYI OR A UKRAINIAN BLOGGER – WHO DOES THE VIDEO DEPICT?
The article has been written in the framework of Facebook’s fact-checking program. You can read more about the restrictions that Facebook may impose based on this article via this link. You can find information about appealing or editing our assessment via this link.