A Twitter user called “UkraineNews” with nearly 40,000 followers is spreading a manipulated video that falsely portrays Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as threatening war.
The blurry video is not dated. Zelenskyy is younger and wears civilian clothes instead of the military attire he adopted after Russia attacked Ukraine in February.
The video appears under the heading: “We will wage war on #Donbass! – Zelenskyy.” In the video, Zelenskyy says:
“From this day on, we have martial law. We are going to war. Our army is ready. We will wage war on Donbas. We will take our territories back by war. We are not indifferent to how many people will die, but we are ready to take back our land. We are ready for direct military action on the occupied territories.”
Trouble is, the video has been selectively edited to remove the full context for those words; in complete form, Zelenskyy actually rejects war.
It turns out that the 30-second cut is taken from Zelenskyy’s remarks during several hours of questioning by journalists at the Kyiv Food Market on October 10, 2019.
The entire session has been posted to YouTube by various media and state channels, including by Ukraine’s Channel 24 TV and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian Service. (RFE/RL is a sister U.S.-funded news agency to the Voice of America and Polygraph.info.)
In the complete video, the Ukrainian president is asked about the necessity of a tougher response to Russian military activities in Donbas, where the Kremlin incited an armed conflict in 2014. (Donbas is in eastern Ukraine, along the Russian border.)
“I am the president of peace. Ending this war is of utmost importance to me. People did not vote for a president who’d come in and say that from this day on we have martial law. We are going to war. Our army is ready. We will wage war on Donbas. We will take our territories back by war. We are not indifferent to how many people will die, but we are ready to take back our land. We are ready for direct military action in the occupied territories.”
But importantly, Zelensky continued the passage by saying:
“The reality is that our army is not ready. I, the president, am not ready to sacrifice our people. And that is why I choose diplomacy.”
The misleading excerpt has been shared online with captions justifying Russia’s February invasion and September’s fake referendums orchestrated by the Kremlin in occupied regions.
As of November 4, the UkraineNews video tweet had almost 200,000 views and more than 3,500 retweets and likes. Who is behind the Twitter account is unclear, but it uses the Soviet Union's coat of arms in its profile and a photograph of Russia’s nuclear missile “Sarmat” being paraded across Moscow’s Red Square.
Most of the UkraineNews followers on Twitter appear to be anonymous, with many using Russian and brandishing the invasion’s signature symbol “Z”. Followers include Russia’s first deputy United Nations representative, Dmitry Polyanskiy.