Fact Check: Video Of Putin Ending The War Is NOT Real -- It's A 'Deepfake'

Fact Check

  • by: Lead Stories Staff
Fact Check: Video Of Putin Ending The War Is NOT Real -- It's A 'Deepfake' Deep Fake

Did Russian President Vladimir Putin announce on March 16, 2022, that Russia, having invaded Ukraine, had capitulated? No, that is not true: No credible independent or official source has reported such a statement by the Russian president. The video uses video from Putin's earlier speech, altered using so-called "deepfake" technology, so that it appears Putin is saying the words. A State Department spokesperson told Lead Stories that there are no signs of Russia curtailing the war. Aides to Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader currently in prison for his anti-Putin protests, did not report anything about the war ending on his Twitter account.

The Putin video was posted as a Twitter message dated March 16, 2022 (archived here) which opened (translated to English): "The president of the Russian Federation has announced the surrender of Russia." It continued:

Russian soldier, drop your weapon and go home while you're alive!

This is what the post looked like on Twitter at the time of writing:

Twitter screenshot

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Thu Mar 17 00:12:59 2022 UTC)

"The facts on the ground do not corroborate this," the State Department spokesperson told Lead Stories in a March 16, 2022, email. "Today we are digesting additional reports of abhorrent behavior by Russia's forces in Mariupol, including that they forced hundreds of civilians into an intensive care hospital and threatened to shoot them, along with patients and staff, while continuing to fire on Ukrainian soldiers."
The spokesperson said international organizations are unable to deliver humanitarian aid to Mariupol, calling the aid blockade "just the latest example of the Kremlin's disregard for human life." The spokesperson added: "We are holding President Putin and his enablers accountable."

On the day this tweet was published, March 16, 2022, Vladimir Putin made no such televised speech.

Neither U.S., Ukrainian, nor Russian state-controlled media mention this event.

The official website of the Kremlin says that on March 16, Putin spoke with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and also signed a decree, "On measures to ensure socio-economic stability and protection of the population in the Russian Federation."

The only footage with the Russian president, published on March 16, 2022, is a recording of a video conference devoted to "measures of socio-economic support of the regions" in Novo-Ogarevo.

Lead Stories used a Google reverse-image search to find the source material used to create this deepfake: the televised speech Putin gave on February 21, 2022, spelling out the grounds for his war on Ukraine.

In the first seconds of the deepfake video, Putin's left hand is on the table and he puts his fingers together. This corresponds to a frame from the Feb. 21 speech posted on reuters.com, shown below for comparison on the right, with the deepfake image on the left. They appear to be identical in every detail except the face, which has been replaced in the deepfake version with manipulated video of Putin.


(Source: Lead Stories montage, left - video screenshot from Twitter.com; right - video screenshot of Putin's February 21 speech from Reuters.com taken Wed, Mar 16, 19:59:34 2022 UTC)

Other Lead Stories fact checks related to the 2022 Russia-Ukraine conflict can be found here.

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  Lead Stories Staff

Lead Stories is a fact checking website that is always looking for the latest false, deceptive or inaccurate stories (or media) making the rounds on the internet.

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