'Leonid Volkov' deepfake video calls target European politicians

Occurred: April 2021

Senior EU and UK politicians and officials were targeted by a campaign in which bad actors appeared to use deepfake technology whilst pretending to be Russian opposition leaders. 

The attack took the form of video calls involving an imposter claiming to be Leonid Volkov, chief of staff to Alexy Navalny, in which the Russia's annexation of Crimea was discussed. 

The identity and motivation of the actors remains unclear, though Volkov told The Guardian that it may have been an attempt to discredit Russian opposition head Navalny.

Among those targeted included Tom Tugendhat, then chair of the UK's foreign affairs select committee, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Estonian parliament Marko Mihkelson, Rihards Kols, chairman of the Latvian parliament's foreign affairs committee, and the Dutch parliament's foreign affairs committee.

It later emerged that the incident was a prank, with no effects - deepfake or otherwise - used.

System 🤖

Operator: Government of Russia
Developer: Government of Russia

Country: Estonia; Latvia; Lithuania; Netherlands; UK

Sector: Politics

Purpose: Damage reputation

Technology: Deepfake - image; Generative adversarial network (GAN); Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning  
Issue: Mis/disinformation; Ethics

Transparency: Governance; Marketing

Investigations, assessments, audits 🧐

News, commentary, analysis 🗞️

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: February 2023