Fact Check

Was Zelenskyy High on Cocaine During February 2024 NBC Interview?

During the Feb. 25 interview, the Ukrainian president addressed the need for more military aid from the United States.

Published Feb. 26, 2024

 (President Of Ukraine/Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via President Of Ukraine/Wikimedia Commons
Claim:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was high on cocaine during a February 2024 interview with NBC News.

On Feb. 25, 2024, viral posts on X claimed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was high on cocaine during an interview with NBC News. During the interview, which aired that day, Zelenskyy discussed the need for more aid from the United States to support Ukraine in the war against Russia. 

At specific moments, Zelenskyy could be seen glancing off camera and shifting around, which some users on X described as signs of his being "antsy," "unfocused" and "visibly coked out of his mind." Another post asked, "Is Ukraine aid going up Zelensky's nose?"

No evidence was provided, nor did Snopes find corroborating evidence, that Zelenskyy was "high on cocaine." As such, we rate this claim as "Unfounded."

The clip is available on NBC News' YouTube channel. Thirty seconds into it, Zelenskyy can be seen walking into a room where he is interviewed. Around one minute into the clip, he can be seen with his hand on his face, finger on forehead, raising his eyebrows and nodding. He also appears to be trying to focus on something while responding in a halting manner. 

There are many theories about Zelenskyy's mannerisms in that interview, but nothing in the way of proof of what actually contributed to his behavior. Ukraine is in the midst of a war, and there are likely a range of pressing issues on Zelenskyy's mind, so cocaine use is an unlikely reason for his behavior, and there is no real evidence to back it up. 

We do know that his attention was also on the device in his ear that possibly aided with translations (he appeared to take it out whenever he was talking and then put it back in). Zelenskyy has used such a device in past interviews and news conferences before, as seen in this CBC News clip and on Getty Images. The president predominantly speaks Ukrainian in interviews, and while he grew up speaking Russian, he has almost stopped using it in public. He speaks in English only occasionally, as it is not his strongest language.

While responding to a question about the cost of having no more U.S. aid to Ukraine, he said, "We will lose a lot. We will lose territories. If you give us a strong package [...] our steps will be more strong on the battlefield."

This is not the first time rumors of cocaine use have spread about Zelenskyy. During the course of the Russia-Ukraine war began, we have fact-checked digitally edited footage that falsely showed cocaine on his desk during a video call with Elon Musk. In another fact check, we demonstrated that footage had been digitally altered to falsely show Zelenskyy "admitting" to using cocaine. 

We have no publicly available information about drug use by Zelenskyy. As such, there is no way to prove or disprove this claim which has emerged from rumor-mongering on social media.

Sources

Ibrahim, Nur. "Was Cocaine on Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Desk During Video Chat With Elon Musk?" Snopes, 4 May 2022, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/volodymyr-zelenskyy-cocaine-video/. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

"Ukrainians Are Ushering the Russian Language out of Their Country at a Rapid Pace | CBC News." CBC, 26 Apr. 2023, https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/ukrainian-langauge-growth-ukraine-russia-1.6822777. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

"Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky Adjusts His Earpiece during a..." Getty Images, 11 Jan. 2024, https://www.gettyimages.in/detail/news-photo/ukraines-president-volodymyr-zelensky-adjusts-his-earpiece-news-photo/1918186833. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

"Video Showing President Zelenskiy 'Admitting' to Using Cocaine Is Digitally Altered." Reuters, 27 Oct. 2022. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL1N31S1RD/. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

"Zelenksyy Explains Why He Needs to Keep Checking His Phone." CBC News, Oct. 19, 2022. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/shorts/oN9QhSHsLsU. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

"Zelenskyy Discusses Need for Aid from Allies as Ukraine Marks 2 Years since Russian Invasion." NBC News, Feb. 25, 2024. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNNQNAAcIJc. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.
 

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.