"I don't need a translator": Wrong Klitschko fools EU town halls

City halls in Berlin, Madrid and Vienna fall for a fake Vitali Klitschko.

"I don't need a translator": Wrong Klitschko fools EU town halls

City halls in Berlin, Madrid and Vienna fall for a fake Vitali Klitschko. The real mayor of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv calls for an investigation. The Berlin Senate Chancellery speaks of a so-called deepfake.

In fraudulent fake calls, an unknown person falsely posed as Vitali Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv - and caused a stir in town halls across Europe with the bluff. There were obviously digitally manipulated video switching with Berlin's Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey and the mayors of Madrid and Vienna, among others.

Compared to the "Bild" newspaper, the real Klitschko calls for an investigation to find out who is responsible for the calls. "A fake Klitschko, who said absurd things, has contacted several mayors in Europe," he emphasizes. Official talks only take place through official channels in Kyiv, he adds. He never needs a translator for conversations in German or English.

During a video call on Friday, Giffey had doubts as to whether she was actually speaking to Kiev's mayor as expected. The conversation ended prematurely. The Senate Chancellery assumes digital manipulation. The state protection of the criminal police, which is responsible for politically motivated crimes, has started investigations.

In Madrid, too, Mayor José Luis Martinez-Almeida became suspicious during the video call with the alleged mayor of Kyiv and broke off the conversation, as a spokesman for the mayor's office explains. On Wednesday, Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig also called a Klitschko impersonator, which he also tweeted about that day. In the meantime, he explained to the ORF that the caller spoke English. The e-mail addresses used to prepare the conversation would have seemed trustworthy. Towards the end, the alleged Klitschko appeared more demanding, which is why the conversation ended. But there was still no doubt.

Ludwig told the ORF: "After the conversation didn't deal with any catchy topics, it's definitely annoying in a specific case, but not a big problem."

The Berlin Senate Chancellery assumes that the appearance of the interlocutor was digitally manipulated. "To all appearances we are dealing with deepfake," said a Senate spokeswoman. Realistic-looking media content that has been processed using artificial intelligence techniques is referred to as deepfakes.

So far, one can only speculate about what kind of manipulation was used in the video call with the fake Klitschko. The photo released by the Senate Chancellery shows Kiev's mayor in what looks like an interview with a Ukrainian journalist earlier this spring. Klitschko wears the same tan jacket and the Ukrainian flag can also be seen in the background. Video footage of the interview at the time may have been used as a basis and merged in real time with the voice and lip movements of the person actually speaking to Giffey. Experts call this face reenactment. According to Giffey, at the beginning of the conversation, they were asked if it could be in Russian and translated.

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