May 06, 2021

What a Dud


What a Dud
A Volkov in Deepfake clothing. Screenshot from Leonid Volkov's response to a Deepfake video using his persona YouTube Post by Русское вещание LTV7

On April 21 the Latvian television program Panorama broadcast a video of Leonid Volkov, the current head of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s headquarters, announcing that the prominent Russian journalist, blogger, and YouTube star Yuri Dud would soon be taking over his position.

The video, however, turned out to be a Deepfake.

On March 16, Latvian member of Parliament Rihards Kols received a letter in the mail allegedly posted by Volkov. This “Volkov” offered to speak with members of the foreign affairs committee of the Latvian Saeima regarding the situation of political prisoners in Russia. Latvian representatives agreed to the meeting, which proceeded on March 23.

Kols only became aware of the antics when Ukrainian members of parliament also reported meeting with the fake Volkov on social media. The pranksters are presumed to be the infamous pair Vovan and Lexus, a pro-Kremlin duo who have targeted other world leaders and prominent figures with silly scandals – like the time they posed as Vladimir Putin in a chat with Elton John.

It later emerged that the Volkov Deepfake had faked out Estonian and Lithuanian members of parliament, and even tomfooled Tom Tugendhat, head of the British parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

Tugendhat presumed that the pranksters targeted Navalny’s team because the Kremlin fears the strength of the current opposition movement in Russia.

As Volkov clinched it on Facebook after the scandal erupted: “Welcome to the Deepfake era.”

 

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