In September 2023, a video went viral, allegedly depicting Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, belly-dancing. One viral post on X, formerly known as Twitter, read "Zelensky has really come a long way, from entertainer and dancer to a global celebrity now being promoted by the military-industrial complex as billions of dollars are released in the name of the American people."
Zelensky has really come a long way, from entertainer and dancer to a global celebrity now being promoted by the military-industrial complex as billions of dollars are released in the name of the American people. WATCH pic.twitter.com/YcqybeUgLL
— Simon Ateba (@simonateba) September 20, 2023
The caption of another post with the in-question video claimed "This is Zelenskyy. I wonder if he's ever been to Epstein Island." Moreover, Google and Yandex (a Russian search engine) reverse-image search results showed that the video in question was shared by various Russian-language accounts. (Ukraine and Russia have been at war since Russian forces invaded the country in February 2022.)
(X user @unhealthytruth)
However, this is not an authentic video of Volodymyr Zelenskyy performing a belly dance. The original video, published on June 1, 2023, showed Pablo Acosta, a dancer from Argentina.
When we compared the "Zelenskyy" video to the one published on @pabloacostabellydance Instagram account, it became clear that the viral footage had been digitally manipulated to superimpose Zelenskyy's face on Acosta's body. Therefore, we rated this claim as Fake.
(X user @unhealthytruth and Instagram account @pabloacostabellydance)
Although the in-question video did not show Zelenskyy, but rather an Argentinean belly dance, footage of the Ukrainian president dancing can be found online. Zelenskyy, before becoming the president of Ukraine, was an actor and comedian, and in 2006 won the Ukrainian version of Dancing With the Stars, a dance competition television series.
This is not the first time we have fact-checked deepfake images and videos related to Zelenskyy or the Ukraine War. In March 2022, a poorly done deepfake video of Zelenskyy asking civilians to lay down their arms to the Russian military was widely shared on social media. The same month, we fact checked a deepfake video showing Russian President Vladimir Putin allegedly announcing the end of Russia's war with Ukraine. If you want to read more about deepfakes and how to detect them, check out our 2021 collection of digitally edited videos.