Deepfake targets Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenksa with false claim she bought Bugatti

A new deepfake video that falsely claims the first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, purchased a $4.8 million Bugatti sports car has racked up millions of views on social media, CBS News has found. The video is part of a Russian disinformation campaign aimed at degrading Western support for Ukraine, researchers said. 

CBS News determined the video was created using artificial intelligence. It shows a man claiming to be a French luxury car dealership employee sharing “exclusive” information about the fabricated sale. The man doesn’t move his neck, rarely blinks and his head barely moves — telltale signs of being manipulated using AI.

Screenshot of a deepfake targeting the first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska.

CBS News

The video was amplified by Russian disinformation networks across social media platforms, racking up over 20 million views on X, Telegram and TikTok. X and Telegram did not respond to a request for comment. A TikTok spokesperson told CBS News their policies do not allow misinformation that may cause harm and the company removes content that violates these guidelines.

While it’s not clear who created the video, an early version of it appeared in an article on a French website called Verite Cachee — or in English, Hidden Truth — on July 1. Researchers from threat intelligence company Recorded Future linked the website to a Russian disinformation network they call CopyCop, which uses sham news websites and AI tools to publish false claims as part of influence campaigns. 

The article included a fabricated invoice purporting to be from Bugatti to dupe readers further. Bugatti Paris — which is operated by Autofficina Parigi, a Car Lovers Group company — said it had filed a criminal complaint against people who shared the video and forged the invoice. Car Lovers Group said the invoice is not theirs, and it contains errors that show it’s fabricated, including the lack of required legal details and an incorrect price for the vehicle. 

Russian disinformation networks have spread similar false claims about Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his family in the past year, including a false claim that he bought two luxury yachts for millions of dollars, and a false claim that Zelenska bought over $1 million worth of jewelry at Cartier in New York City.

Clément Briens, a senior threat intelligence analyst for cybersecurity company Recorded Future, told CBS News that false stories about corruption are created to undermine Western support for Ukraine and “erode trust in the leaders, their institutions, and international alliances.”

The falsehoods play into existing concerns and documented reports about corruption in Ukraine, researchers say.

Darren Linvill, a Russian disinformation expert and professor at Clemson University in South Carolina, said the false claims are “framed for a very particular audience that wants to hear and is ready to hear that and repeat it.”

Linvill said the narratives have managed to gain traction online, despite being debunked — likely because of the cost and status of the brand used by the network. “I think Bugatti has something to do with it,” he said.

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