debunked

No, these photos don’t prove that Zelensky is filming his videos in front of a green screen

People have been circulating this image, offering it as “proof” that the videos published by the Ukrainian president on social media are actually filmed in a studio in front of a green screen.
People have been circulating this image, offering it as “proof” that the videos published by the Ukrainian president on social media are actually filmed in a studio in front of a green screen. © Observers

Pro-Russian social media accounts have been circulating photos and a video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky standing in front of a green screen, claiming that this image offers proof that the videos that he publishes on social media are filmed in a studio and not on the ground as claimed. However, these pictures don’t prove anything of the sort – they were taken during a forum where the president appeared as a hologram.  

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If you only have a minute

  • Pro-Russian Twitter and Facebook accounts have been circulating images showing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appearing in front of a green screen since October 11.
  • These accounts are claiming that these images offer proof that the president films his popular videos addressing the Ukrainian people in a studio, not on the ground. Some have even said that this offers proof that he has left the country. 
  • However, these images were taken out of context. They show a specific set-up from June 2022 allowing the president to appear as a hologram at several European summits about technology and innovation.
  • It’s impossible for us to say for sure that the president has never used a green screen in his videos. However, we can say that these images do not offer proof of any fakery. 

The fact-check, in detail

Since the very start of the conflict, the Ukrainian president has used social media to connect directly with the citizens of his country and its troops. Often, the videos seem to be made spontaneously, filmed as selfies, with the streets of Kyiv as a backdrop. These videos have gained him the admiration of many Ukrainians and, indeed, people around the world, who commend his bravery for filming videos outside when he is a target of the Russian Army. 

However, pro-Russian accounts tell a different story about these videos – they say that the Ukrainian president is filming them in front of a green screen. This theory was given extra fodder on October 11, 2022 when images were posted online showing the president standing in front of a green screen, a cinematic device that allows a different backdrop to be added later on. The photos also show the president surrounded by high-tech video equipment. 

Some Facebook and Twitter accounts claim that this offers proof that the Ukrainian president isn’t actually on the ground as he claims. 

"All of the videos of #Zelensky outside in Kyiv are fake. In reality, he’s filming in front of a green screen in Poland. He sends hundreds of millions of people to the slaughterhouse while he’s just comfortably hiding in Hollywood,” reads one tweet in French shared on October 11.

A screenshot of a tweet posted on October 12 which claims Ukrainian President Zelensky is creating propaganda videos with a green screen.
A screenshot of a tweet posted on October 12 which claims Ukrainian President Zelensky is creating propaganda videos with a green screen. © Twitter

The image was shared widely, like in this tweet from October 12 that was retweeted more than 14,000 times, as well as by the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom

Some other accounts have been circulating a video lasting nearly 50 seconds showing the Ukrainian president speaking in front of the same green screen featured in the photos. That’s the case of this tweet, which has garnered more than 140,000 views and 3,000 retweets, or this tweet in French, shared more than 1,000 times. 

This video also includes interviews with people who seem to be on the technical team as well as behind-the-scenes images of the filming. You can see, for example, computer screens where people are editing videos of Zelensky. 

This is a screengrab showing several scenes that appear in the video shared by this account on October 12, 2022.
This is a screengrab showing several scenes that appear in the video shared by this account on October 12, 2022. © Observers

Hologram during tech conferences

But these images were taken out of context.

If you carry out a reverse image search on the Yandex search engine (check out how by following this link), then you’ll find out more about where these images were filmed. 

This search reveals that these same images appear in several articles about the Ukrainian president’s appearance at a number of tech conferences in June 2022. 

"Volodymyr Zelenskiy records his hologram address that was transmitted across seven technology conferences, including the Dublin Tech Summit, on Thursday", reads the caption on this photo included in an article published on June 16 in the Irish media outlet The Irish Times

As part of this speech, which was broadcast to the VivaTech conference in Paris and the London-based Founders Forum, the Ukrainian president shared his desire to turn Ukraine into a pioneering country in terms of technology and invited people to invest and innovate in the country to help with its rebuilding. 

As for the video that was also circulating online, you can find the full video if you search the keywords "Martin Williams” (the name of one of the people interviewed in the video) and "Zelensky” in any search engine. 

This was published on June 28, 2022 on the YouTube channel of the Founders Forum. The section of the video between 1’03 and 1’50 corresponds with the video published over the last few days. By comparing it to the original video, then you can see that the image was cropped to remove the QR code and the hashtag #REBUILDUKRAINE which appeared in the original video.

Here, you can see the original video from June 28, 2022 and the video shared on October 12, 2022.
Here, you can see the original video from June 28, 2022 and the video shared on October 12, 2022. © Observers

The president’s hologram appearance was made possible using technology by the American company Evercoast, which is linked to a number of different production companies. 

"Talesmith’s founder, Martin Williams and Evercoast’s founding CEO, Ben Nunez travelled to Kyiv to record the President volumetrically and ensure we delivered his message in 3D, showcasing the potential for Ukraine to leapfrog into a better, tech-enabled world, post-war”, reads the description of the video on YouTube. 

Recurring accusations

The accusations that the Ukrainian president is using a green screen aren’t new— they started circulating at the start of the conflict..

For example, accusations of this nature appeared after the president posted a video on Facebook on October 10, 2022, where he told Ukrainians to shelter as Russia continued to launch air strikes on the capital. In the video, filmed as a selfie, Zelensky stands in front of a deserted square. "From the safety of shelter, Zelensky makes an appearance using a green screen…”, reads this tweet in French.

Similar accusations circulated online after this video was posted on March 19, 2022 showing the Ukrainian president calling on Russia to negotiate in order to limit the destruction caused by the war. In the video, the president is standing on a deserted street in the dark. 

"Ukrainian president Zelensky stages a scene in front of a green screen to make it look like he is on the ground,” claims this Twitter account, which shared the video.  

This is a screengrab of two tweets in French accusing Zelensky of using green screens to film the videos he shares on social media.
This is a screengrab of two tweets in French accusing Zelensky of using green screens to film the videos he shares on social media. © Observers

While it is impossible to prove whether or not Zelensky filmed these videos in front of a green screen, we can say with certainty that the videos shared over the past few days don’t prove that the president’s videos are faked. 

The Ukrainian president is not the only one accused of using green screens. Last March, pro-Ukrainian accounts stated that they suspected that Russian President Vladimir Putin had used a green screen during one of his televised speeches. He then showed that this allegation was false and that people had gotten that impression because of the poor quality of the video