Warsaw’s mayor tricked by ‘deepfake’ version of Vitali Klitschko

Mayors from a number of European capitals, including Budapest, Vienna, Berlin, and Madrid, all held fake videocalls with who they thought was the mayor of Kyiv

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Do Rzeczy/Radio Zet

In a sign that deepfakes have the power to affect geopolitics, reports have emerged that in the beginning of June, Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski had a private videocall with Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko that turned out to be a deepfake.

The call was immediately deemed “unusual” and drew suspicions. Right after it ended, Warsaw City Hall contacted Kyiv authorities, and it became clear that Kyiv’s mayor was not video conferencing at that moment, reports Polish Radio ZET.

The mayor of Warsaw was fooled by a “deepfake,” which means a digitally fabricated audio-video recording that almost looks real. This trick uses artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to replace faces of the people in the video or photo. Warsaw’s City Hall notified the police department and filed a case with their cybercrime unit.

According to Radio Zet, it soon became clear that mayors of other European capitals, including Budapest, Vienna, Berlin, and Madrid also held videoconferences with the fake Klitschko.

“Indeed, we were all tricked. The conversation did not concern any sensitive issues but nevertheless I decided to notify Polish security services and the Ukrainian embassy,” Trzaskowski told Radio ZET.

Following the discovery, Warsaw City Hall is organizing a videoconference of all mayors who were tricked with the real Vitali Klitschko.

“We will call Mayor Vitali Klitschko to demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine and show that together we are strong and will never give in to provocations,” said Trzaskowski.

Vitali Klitschko, the former boxer who has twice held the WBC heavyweight title, has been the mayor of Kyiv since July 2014. His younger brother Vladimir was also a boxer. They are both heavily involved in the defense of Ukraine against Russia’s aggression.

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