aLast Wednesday, members of the Foreign Affairs Committee sat in front of a screen in the House of Representatives with anticipation. Leonid Volkov had asked them to conduct a “secret interview”. Volkov is the right-hand man of opposition politician Alexei Navalnig, who represents his interests from exile in Lithuania. The video call lasted for half an hour. But something just wasn’t right. How were they going to help Navalnyj? For example, he asked the caller. Then he suggested: You can go on hunger strike yourself or donate bitcoin!
Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries, based in Brussels.
Some delegates began to doubt whether this was really Volkov. Soon, Social Democrat Katy Perry searched for him on Google again, they’d been in touch before. Then she said, “That can’t be true.” Her left-wing liberal colleague Chord Shordsma summed up his impression: “The pictorial part was very persuasive, but the language did not match what the Navaling staff had to say.” Once, Volkov’s phone rang. The Dutch ambassador wanted to know if he had contacted the Foreign Affairs Committee. No, he does not have.
But maybe this wasn’t dice either, but an optical illusion: deepfakes. This is the name given to photos and videos whose content has been forged using artificial intelligence. Faces and even sounds are transferred to other bodies. There are even apps for it. MEPs could not see the real caller, but rather a computer’s moving variable – Volkov’s face. And they weren’t the only ones who felt this way. Deepfake Volkov has been very active in recent weeks. He also addressed representatives of the three Baltic states, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Amnesty International has also been contacted by the fake Volkov. Who’s behind her: The Joker – or is she more serious?
Zygimantas Pavilionis, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Lithuanian Parliament, described the nickname of Volkov on March 19. It was reported that during this conversation, the strange impression made by the first email from the alleged Chief of Staff Navalnig was reinforced. In it, the fake Volkov asked for a meeting with the full Foreign Affairs Committee. “A suggestion like this from someone I’ve seen for a while seemed strange to me,” says Pavilionis. Additionally, some formulas blocked it in the mail.
However, Pavilionis agreed to make a video call. “Before the meeting of the European Union foreign ministers on Russia, I was concerned with the position of the Russian democrats,” he says. However, Volkov’s alleged photo disappeared from the screen at the beginning of the conversation, ostensibly due to technical problems. He avoided my questions about the status of Russian democrats. He was only interested in my contacts in the US Congress, and he wanted me to pass those connections to him. “
Then the fake Volkov sent an email to Pavilionis requesting that it be referred to a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. The interesting thing about the text of this email is that the alleged Russian dissident wanted to speak to the Americans about how to weaken Russia’s influence over Belarus. When this became a reality, the message said, “We can change the system first in Belarus and then in Russia.” This is in line with the allegations of the so-called Western blueprints published by Minsk and Moscow.
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