Video edited to show 'white substance' on Zelensky's desk

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An edited video apparently showing cocaine on the desk of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has circulated on social media around the world. It is the latest in a string of disinformation targeting the leader since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The suspicious, powder-like pile did not appear in the original video posted on Zelensky's Instagram account.

"Zelensky - white substance?" reads a Facebook post shared on April 9.

The post shares footage of Zelensky on a video call, with what appears to be white powder next to a credit card on his desk.

The clip circulated on social media around the world, including in Canada, Britain and the United States and in various languages, such as French, Greek and simplified Chinese.

A torrent of disinformation has hit Zelensky since Moscow's invasion in February 2022, with false claims often parroting Russian President Vladimir Putin's narrative that the Ukrainian government is full of "drug addicts and neo-Nazis" (archived here).

AFP previously debunked a fake picture apparently showing Zelensky holding a t-shirt emblazoned with a swastika (archived here) and a video edited to make it look like he said cocaine was "awesome" (archived here).

Screenshot of the false post, taken on April 21, 2023

The original video posted on Zelensky's Instagram account on March 6, 2022 shows him on a video called with billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk (archived here).

"If you have time after the war, you're very welcome. I invite you," he tells Musk, to which the tech mogul responds that he looks forward to visiting.

Zelensky wrote in the post that he thanked Musk for supporting Ukraine and that the SpaceX founder would supply more Starlink satellite systems -- which have been deployed to ensure internet access in the war-torn country.

The white powder seen on Zelensky's desk in the doctored video (below left) does not appear in the original footage (below right).

Screenshot comparison of the doctored video (left) and Zelensky's Instagram video (right), taken on April 21, 2023

The founder of investigative outlet Bellingcat Elliot Higgins previously debunked the fake video, saying it was being shared by pro-Moscow accounts (archived here).

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Ukraine-Russia conflict