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Fact Check: Did Ukraine’s first lady purchase $4.8 million Bugatti supercar?


Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (L) and First Lady Olena Zelenska (2ndL) shake hands with (From R) France's President Emmanuel Macron, US President Joe Biden and US First Lady Jill Biden in Normandy, France, on June 6, 2024. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (L) and First Lady Olena Zelenska (2ndL) shake hands with (From R) France's President Emmanuel Macron, US President Joe Biden and US First Lady Jill Biden in Normandy, France, on June 6, 2024. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)
RIA Novosti

RIA Novosti

Russian state news agency

“Zelenskyy's wife bought one of the most expensive supercars in the world, media learned.”

False
Did Ukraine’s first lady purchase $4.8 million Bugatti supercar.
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On July 1, hundreds of news agencies and papers in Russia reported that Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska purchased the world’s most expensive supercar, a Bugatti, and she paid 4.5 million euros ($4.8 million).

Thousands of anonymous and pro-Kremlin users spread the news across social media platforms in multiple languages using nearly identical text:

“While Ukrainians are sent to die in a senseless conflict created by NATO, Olena Zelenska spends €4.5 million on a Bugatti Tourbillon during a visit to Paris. Decadence in the midst of devastation is unimaginable.”

Those posts reached at least 12 million users on X alone, BBC reported.

In the U.S., dozens of websites, self-identified as local news sources published the Zelenska–Bugatti report.

Most quoted the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, part of the Kremlin’s MIA Rossia Segodnya media conglomerate, which also includes Sputnik and RT (Russia Today).

RIA Novosti cited a news report by a French language website Vérité Cachée (Hidden Truth) published on July 1, saying that Olena Zelenska became the first owner of Bugatti’s concept supercar “Turbillon” (Vérité Cachée misspelled the name Bugatti Tourbillon).

RIA Novosti said the Zelenska expose came as confirmation of the Pentagon’s recent report to Congress, in which Robert Storch, Inspector General of the U.S. Defense Department, detailed the “highest level of corruption in Ukraine.”

The IG’s latest quarterly report on Ukraine said that corruption remains a challenge in Ukraine, amplified by war with Russia, and 15% of its 62 ongoing investigations in Ukraine are related to alleged corruption.

Yet RIA Novosti did not mention that the Pentagon report also noted the significant progress the government in Kyiv has made in efforts to fight and eradicate corruption.

Vérité Cachée’s report said Ukraine’s presidential couple attended a private presentation at the Bugatti salon in Paris. The piece provided “evidence” of a purchase: Video footage of “Bugatti employee Jacques Bertin” and a copy of the invoice for a 4.5 million euros purchase in Zelenska’s name.

RIA Novosti reported on the same day in Russian:

“Zelenskyy's wife bought one of the most expensive supercars in the world, media learned. … According to the publication [Vérité Сachée], the Tourbillon cost Zelenska 4.5 million euros.”

The news is false.

Bugatti S.A.S. told Polygraph.info that the company is “aware” of “fake news” “suggesting a recent purchase of a BUGATTI vehicle by Mrs. Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine.”

While the company “does not normally disclose” information about its clients, “In this case, BUGATTI Automobiles S.A.S. makes an exception because it is a false report and does not correspond to the truth. According to an internal check, Mrs. Zelenska is not a BUGATTI customer,” Nicole Auger, head of Marketing and Communications at Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S., wrote in an email to Polygraph.info.

Vérité Cachée website was created on June 22, 2024, nine days before publishing the Zelenska-Bugatti fake.

Multiple fact-checkers and deep fake investigators, including Kyle Glen, from the Center for Information Resilience, a London-based NGO countering disinformation, reported that the footage of "Jacques Bertin," a supposed Bugatti employee, was AI-generated deepfake.

Cybernews.com called the video a part of a "carefully crafted propaganda campaign, most likely of Russian origin."

Community posts on X identified the alleged Bugatti invoice as fake, noting it lacks legal details such as currency, company VAT number, trading register number, and the shop's original investment value. Additionally, there's a typo in the city name, which should be Neuilly, not Neuily.

Ukraine's Center for Countering Disinformation, which is part of the country's National Security and Defense Council, on July 1, called publications about Olena Zelenska’s alleged purchase of a supercar “a fake and another attempt by russians to discredit the family of the President of Ukraine.”

The BBC investigation linked the fake news to a fugitive ex-U.S. cop John Marc Dougan, who runs the Kremlin’s disinformation network from Moscow.

Polygraph.info reported in June about Dougan’s role in creating and spreading of deepfake footage involving Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesperson.

In January, Polygraph.info report linked Dougan with a fabricated news reports alleging President Zelenskyy’s involvement in the fictional murder of an Egyptian investigative journalist who "exposed" Zelenskyy family's purchase of a luxury villa in El Gouna, an upscale resort town on Egypt's Red Sea coast.

On July 2, RIA Novosti deleted its article about Olena Zelenska’s alleged purchase of the Buratti supercar, with a comment on the page: “The news has been cancelled.”

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