Ukrainian officials are warning of a Russian disinformation campaign that would have a computer-generated, duplicate image of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, or deepfake, surrendering on live television or video to get his armed forces to lay down their arms.
An announcement from Spravdi, a branch of Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Information, raised the possibility that Russia will use deepfake technology to create a video of Zelenskyy and transmit it on Ukrainian television or internet.
Spreading panic and mistrust of government, and exhausting citizens and armed forces, are the stated objectives, the statement warned.
Deepfake technologies have been perfected to the point that most can’t distinguish between real and lookalikes, according to a recent paper published on the subject.
This deepfake would be a another part of a broader informational/psychological assault by Russia on the country that was first reported by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense on March 1.
“At first, they’re planning to launch disruptions in communications. After that you will see fake claims of Ukraine’s surrender. They might be backed by official looking documents and videos,” said Oleksyi Reznikov, Ukraine’s minister of defense.
The first stage of damaging communications likely already has begun.
In Kyiv, the capital, the bombing of the Kyiv TV Tower, a 1,250-foot metal lattice telecommunications structure, killed five people and damaged parts of the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial. The tower’s power source was damaged according to the capital city’s mayor, and all channels were down. As of Wednesday, eight channels were restored. The tower services 2.8 million residents of the city.
In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second biggest city only 25 miles from the border, two missiles hit a TV tower early Wednesday. The chief executive officer at Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine, Mykola Chernotytskyi, reported that all channels across the Kharkiv region were down. Most of the channels were restored in a matter of hours.
Even though, subduing two of the biggest cities appeared to be the clear objective, smaller towns are not immune. In Korosten, a tower was damaged in an air raid that killed four.
In the contested town of Lysychansk near the so-called “People’s Independent Republic of Luhansk,” one of the Ukrainian regions Russia recognized as independent before its invasion, a tower was badly damaged.
All channels were still down. In Melitopol, which is occupied by Russians, a tower was captured and employees forced to turn Ukrainian channels off. In the occupied, or nearly occupied, Primorsk, Berdyansk and Tokmak, television was down completely.
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