An emergency announcement purportedly made by Russian President Vladimir Putin and broadcasted on several radio and television stations in bordering regions of Russia was revealed to be a deepfake, according to the Kremlin.
The fabricated address featured an AI-generated Putin, announcing a “state of martial law” had been declared in the Belgorod, Voronezh, and Rostov regions due to imminent attacks from Ukrainian forces. He added that he would be signing a decree for full-scale mobilization, “to defeat this dangerous and cunning enemy.”
The deepfake Putin also urged residents to evacuate their homes and seek shelter deeper inside Russia.
Radio Mir, one of the targeted stations, said that the incident persisted for approximately 40 minutes. Clips of the deepfake video quickly proliferated on social media platforms.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov addressed the situation shortly after, asserting that the martial law declaration was the result of a hacking incident.
“There was definitely no [appeal]. Indeed, there was a hack in some regions. In particular, I know that there was a hack on Radio Mir and on some networks. Now all this has already been eliminated, taken under control,” Peskov told state-owned media outlet Tass.
The administrative center for the Belgorod regions dismissed it as an intentional attempt to “sow panic among peaceful Belgorod residents,” as reported by the Kyiv Post.
So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the hacking, and no suspects have been announced. Data scientist Arseny Khakhalin has called the incident what could be the first instance of weaponizing the use of deepfakes in a real war.
The emergence of deepfake technology has raised concerns about the potential for misinformation and deception on a large scale. Deepfakes, which utilize artificial intelligence to manipulate or fabricate audio and video content, have the capacity to mimic real individuals with remarkable accuracy.
The AI-generated announcement comes shortly after Kyiv dismissed Russia’s claims that they had snuffed a Ukrainian counteroffensive on Monday.
Moscow claimed that Ukrainian forces attached using six mechanized and two tank battalions on Sunday, and added that Russian forces were able to kill 250 Ukrainian troops and destroy dozens of tanks and vehicles.
“The enemy’s goal was to break through our defenses in the most vulnerable, in its opinion, sector of the front,” said the ministry’s spokesman, Igor Konashenkov. “The enemy did not achieve its tasks. It had no success.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, dismissed the claims as mere fabrication.
Ukraine has been careful not to announce when the long-awaited counteroffensive would begin. On Sunday, its defense minister tweeted a video of soldiers making the universal shush gesture of holding the index finger to their lips with the caption, “words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm.”
What they have confirmed though, through Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar on Monday afternoon, is that they are conducting “offensive actions” near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
“In some sectors we are conducting offensive actions,” Malyar said. “The Bakhmut sector remains the epicenter of the hostilities. We are advancing there on a rather wide front. We are having some success.”
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