March 18, 2024 | NYT

Fake investigative journalists, Kremlin’s latest effort to discredit President Zelenskyy

The New York Times recently featured ISD research on pro-Kremlin fabrications aimed at discrediting Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy and undermining support for Ukraine.  

On 20 August, a young man going by the name of Mohamed al-Alawi, claiming to be an Egypt-based investigative journalist, stated in a YouTube video that he had information on the purchase of a villa in a resort town on the Red Sea by the mother-in-law of Ukraine’s president Zelenskyy. 

ISD traced the video’s spread to other platforms and noted that the newly created account had no followers or previous activity. The villa purchase claim soon made an appearance on X, posted by activist Sonja van de Ende, whose articles have previously surfaced in Russian government propaganda outlets.  

In late December, two new videos from “Egypt News”, a freshly created YouTube channel, claimed that the ‘journalist’ al-Alawi was dead. In one of the videos, a man claiming to be his brother said that al-Alawi had been beaten to death by “Ukrainian special forces who acted on behalf of President Zelenskyy or another high-ranking official.”  

Despite the Red Sea property not being sold, nor evidence emerging of the man in the video being harmed, ISD found that posts about the killing were viewed a million times on X on 25 December and covered by multiple other news sources.  

This pro-Kremlin campaign represents only one of the four complex narratives ISD identified and shared with NYT surrounding disinformation targeting Ukraine.

The full investigation is available at the New York Times website.