False: Volodomyr Zelensky’s Wife Did Not Purchase a Bugatti Tourbillion

Russian Disinformation Campaign Spreads Falsehoods About Ukrainian President’s Wife Buying Bugatti Tourbillion

Russian disinformation campaigns are nothing new, but this one is particularly bizarre. A state-owned Russian news site is pushing an obvious falsehood that Olena Zelensky, wife of Ukraine president Volodymyr, bought a Bugatti Tourbillion from dealer Bugatti Paris. The dealer denies that this is the case, and in a statement said it’s taking legal action against the parties that pushed this propaganda. As noted by Italian journalist David Puente on X (formerly Twitter), the story emerged from a French-language website called Verite Cachee, or “Hidden Truth in France.” The site went live just last month, ahead of the French elections, and appears to be filled with low-quality, AI-generated, pro-Russia content. The site has what it falsely purports to be an invoice for the car, and a deepfake video on Instagram of someone claiming to be a dealership employee announcing the sale of a Tourbillon to Zelensky. The story from this site was then picked up by RIA Novosti, a Russian state-owned publication.

Claim Refuted by Ukraine’s Center for Countering Disinformation

Ukraine’s Center for Countering Disinformation points out that these claims are obviously false. It also surmises that the claims were timed to next week’s NATO summit in Washington D.C., which Zelensky will attend. Bugatti Paris notes that the invoice is fake. “The mandatory legal details don’t appear on the invoice, the price of the vehicle is obviously wrong, the price of the options and their descriptions are inaccurate and inconsistent, the graphics are outdated, and the [owners of Bugatti Paris] Car Lovers Group would never have allowed such a document to be issued.” In case there was any doubt. It’s all a bit crude and obvious to anyone with even a bit of media literacy, but this whole thing hasn’t stopped people from believing it. On X, “Bugatti” is a trending topic right now, with nearly 100,000 posts, and not just because people are excited about the Tourbillion.

Possible Source Identified as Ex-Floridian Cop Living in Russia

BBC journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh believes this bit of propaganda can be traced to a network of sites ran by John Mark Dougan, an ex Florida cop living in Russia who runs a number of pro-Russia disinformation sites. The BBC reported last year that Dougan’s sites pushed a rumor that Volodomyr Zelensky bought two yachts with U.S. taxpayer dollars. That false story was cited by U.S. senators Marjorie Taylor Greene and J.D. Vance.

Pattern of Disinformation Campaigns

Russian disinformation campaigns are not new and have been a prominent feature of global news in recent years. However, the false claim about Olena Zelensky purchasing a Bugatti Tourbillion adds a new layer of absurdity to these campaigns. The fact that the information was sourced from a French-language website and picked up by a Russian state-owned publication highlights the international scope of these efforts to spread misinformation. This interconnected network of sites and publications allows for false narratives to gain traction and be disseminated widely, impacting public opinion and potentially influencing political outcomes.

Implications for Media Literacy and Fact-Checking

This incident underscores the importance of media literacy and fact-checking in the age of digital information. With the proliferation of fake news and disinformation online, it is crucial for individuals to critically evaluate the sources of information they encounter and verify the accuracy of claims before sharing them. By developing a healthy skepticism and a habit of fact-checking, individuals can help combat the spread of false narratives and protect themselves from being misled by propaganda and manipulation.

Legal Action Against Propaganda Perpetrators

The response from Bugatti Paris, threatening legal action against those responsible for spreading the false claim about Olena Zelensky’s purchase of a Bugatti Tourbillion, highlights the potential consequences for perpetuating misinformation. By holding individuals and entities accountable for participating in disinformation campaigns, there is a potential deterrent effect that could discourage future instances of spreading false narratives for political or malicious purposes. This legal recourse serves as a mechanism for protecting individuals and organizations from reputational harm and preventing the escalation of false claims into widespread beliefs.

In conclusion, the false narrative about Olena Zelensky buying a Bugatti Tourbillion is a stark example of the power of disinformation campaigns to shape public perception and influence political discourse. By understanding the tactics and motivations behind these efforts to spread false information, individuals can better equip themselves to discern truth from manipulation. The response from Bugatti Paris and the identification of potential sources behind the propaganda highlight the need for vigilance in verifying information and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions in perpetuating fake news. Ultimately, by remaining critical and informed consumers of media, individuals can help combat the spread of disinformation and defend against attempts to deceive and mislead the public.

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