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Antifake

Kremlin fake claims Ukraine planned to assassinate French President Emmanuel Macron

On the evening of February 13, a video segment purportedly released by the French television channel FR24 began circulating on social media. The blurry video was recorded with a consumer camera or phone, aimed at a television screen.

The segment appeared to show a fragment of a news broadcast in French, with the following translation into Russian subtitled onto the video:

...On to other news. French President Emmanuel Macron was forced to cancel his visit to Ukraine due to an attempted assassination plot against him. According to a source close to the National Intelligence Council, this attempt was thwarted by French intelligence services, who intercepted correspondence and calls among the participants of the assassination attempt. According to the Ukrainian government's plan, the attack was intended to draw renewed attention to Ukraine from the international community and allow for increased arms shipments to Ukraine. Ukrainian authorities planned to shift blame for the attack on the French President to the Russian side and accuse the country of terrorist tactics in warfare.

The footage displayed screenshots of alleged Telegram correspondence, but due to the low resolution, only individual words could be discerned.

Additional, better quality versions of the supposed Telegram chats were spread on social media accounts that had clearer visibility but which did not contain explicit references to the alleged plot. The chats contained racial and anti-Semitic slurs and appeared designed to create impression that the conversation in question had been between Ukraine's recently removed commander-in-chief Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi and an unnamed person.

Kremlin-aligned mainstream media also joined in. On the evening of February 14, the OTR channel (“Public Television of Russia”) aired a segment titled “France reported a possible assassination attempt on Macron by Ukraine”:

The French channel France 24 published data on social media X regarding a possible assassination attempt by Ukrainian authorities against French President Emmanuel Macron. This led to the European country's leader canceling his visit to Kiev, journalists noted.
In the video published by the channel, it is stated that the assassination was planned by the head of Ukrainian intelligence, Kirill Budanov. After the plan was executed, Ukraine would have blamed everything on Russia.
The assassination was thwarted due to the former commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Valery Zaluzhny, who warned France through his sources. France 24 showed screenshots of correspondence from a person allegedly close to Zaluzhny. In them, he reports about the impending assassination.
Emmanuel Macron planned to visit Ukraine on February 13 and 14, but canceled it. The French side cited the security of the French President as the reason.

Dmitry Medvedev also joined in, writing on Twitter:

Macron seems to have been so scared of a real or perceived assassination in Nazi Kiev that he not only canceled his trip there but also decided to share nuclear potential with other Europeans. Of course, such trifles as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons do not bother him. The French rooster puts above all else the task of crowing loudly first, thereby attracting the attention of the entire European chicken coop.
Of course, the main bird handler from across the ocean would immediately castrate the hoarse French rooster, and the Parisian clown would continue to peacefully peck grain from the hand of the owner. In essence, all nuclear potential is under Washington's control. And yet, the piercing cry of the Gallic rooster was counted. It woke up the henhouse. The henhouse got worried. And Macron once again reminded everyone what it means to be comme un coq en pâte...

The last phrase is a French idiom, which literally translates to “like a rooster in dough,” and figuratively corresponds to the Russian expression “like a fish in water.”

It doesn't quite fit the context of the tweet and seems to have been inserted only to mention the rooster — a symbol of France.

However, the story promulgated by the social media accounts and the Russian government representatives is clearly a fake. Shortly after Medvedev's tweet, the press service of France 24 stated:

“This story was never broadcast by us, and our journalists never made such statements. This video was created using artificial intelligence.”

Our research shows that judging by the banner in the footage and the tie of the anchor, the video montage was based on a news broadcast from December 2 of last year, and was “molded” into the fake story by use of AI-tools. The voice of the “anchor” contains elements of atypical intonations and appears to have been synthesized using a sample of the actual France 24 host, with an imperfect attempt to synchronize the text with lip movements. The “filming from a TV screen” was likely a ploy to explain away the blurred video, and hide as much of the artifacts of the deep-fake simulation as possible.

However, not even the denial from the French channel could deter the Kremlin's propagandists. The online publication “Ukraine.ru” (run by the Russian state-owned RIA Novosti) wrote:

If the France24 story about the assassination of Macron is almost certainly fake, then not everything is so unequivocal with the leaked correspondence of Zaluzhny's sympathizers. Considering that the visit of the French president was canceled for security reasons, French intelligence services still had some information.
According to Russian political scientist Sergey Markov, it is quite possible that the 'Zaluzhny note' may be based on real facts.
And staging an assassination attempt on Macron by Budanov may not be fake. After all, Budanov is an absolutely ruthless terrorist. And canceling Macron's visit with a statement about security is definitely not a fake, but a fact, he wrote in his Telegram channel. In his opinion, the figure of the former president Petro Poroshenko may loom behind all this, who recently has been increasingly critical of Zelensky and his entourage, opposing the dismissal of Zaluzhny.

Despite the clearly inauthentic origin of the fake news story, it has been picked up surprisingly widely by Russia-controlled accounts but also by other, possibly oblivious purveyors of disinformation.

The following charts show the timeline of spreading and the linguistic re-distribution of the false story on X (previously Twitter):

This article is also available in Russian.

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