Leonid Volkov, the chief of staff of the Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny, is surprised that Dutch MPs have been deceived by an imitator who pretended to be Volkov. That happened last Wednesday during a conversation held via Zoom.
The Permanent Committee on Foreign Affairs thought to have a meeting with Volkov, who operates from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius because of the political situation in Russia. But according to the Chief of Staff himself, these were two Russian “jokers” who were commissioned by the Kremlin. According to him, that has happened many times.
“No pranksters, but serious business.”
According to Volkov, the fake conversation is the work of Vladimir Kuznetsov and Aleksey Stolyarov, better known as Vovan and Lexus. This duo is known in Russia for fooling opponents of the Kremlin and world leaders. “We call them jokers, but they are well-paid employees of the Russian government. Its more serious than it seems,” says the real Volkov in a conversation with DeccEit.
He is convinced that Putins government is behind the talks: “Zoom has been a salvation in the pandemic, but the Kremlin uses it as a weapon.” He argues that the Putin government has been using misinformation for much longer to attack the opposition.
The Dutch MPs were not the first to have been impersonated by someone who pretended to be Volkov, says the Chief of Staff. Previously, the imitator had already held talks with MPs from Estonia, Lithuania and the United Kingdom. Volkov also spoke with representatives of Amnesty International and the European Council.
“ I expected European callers to be better prepared,” says Volkov. He points out that he is easy to find and accessible via social media, thus verifying his identity. But according to Volkov, prior to the ZOOM conversation, it was not checked whether it was really him, nor was there any preparatory conversation taking place.
He also points out that calls are usually written in bad English and come from a suspicious domain. That should have rang a bell, according to Volkov. “In Russia, we are used to the fact that any news can be fake news, and any request can be fake.”
How contact with the Dutch Chamber Commission came about has not become known. Participants said afterwards to have a suspicion that it was not in the hook. For example, D66-MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma spoke of a bizarre event. Nothing has been disclosed about the content. The House of Representatives examines what went wrong and how incidents of this kind can be prevented in the future.
Possible use of deepfake technology
On Facebook, the real Volkov wrote earlier this week that it looks like deep-fake-technology is being used in the talks. This technology makes it possible to replace one face in a video (connection) with another face.
may have happened in the conversation with the Dutch MPs, but this cannot be checked now for DeccEit. No image of the conversation has been released and the House of Representatives does not want to say anything more about this.
To prove that the image was not manipulated this time, Volkov drew crazy pelvis in front of DeccEits camera:
“ It puts a lot of time and effort into it, both politically and technologically,” says the opposition man about the talks. “They put a lot of work into making it sound reliable.”
Volkov speaks of warfare based on disinformation from the Kremlin. All in order to make the Russian opposition appear unbelievable in Europe. “For Putin, there is nothing more important than to suppress the movement around Navalny.
“ Im sorry that this is happening, even if its not my fault,” Volkov responds. According to him, the calls give a false picture of the case he and Navalny, who are in prison camp, are arguing for.
The opposition leader himself is now relatively well, says Volkov. He is no longer on hunger strike and is allowed to speak to self-elected doctors. However, he will need about three more weeks to recover from the hunger strike – as long as the hunger strike lasted.