The State Security Department at the Berlin State Criminal Police Office (LKA) is investigating the fake phone call between an alleged Vitali Klitschko and Berlin’s Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey to determine exactly what type of manipulation it is.
Senate spokeswoman Lisa Frerichs announced this on Monday on request. During a video call on Friday, Giffey (SPD) had doubts as to whether she was actually connected to Kiev’s mayor Klitschko as planned. The conversation then ended prematurely.
The Senate Chancellery announced on Friday that it appeared to be a deep fake. This involves media content that has been manipulated using artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. According to the Senate Chancellery, there had been no indication that he was not speaking to a real person.
“Right after the conversation on Friday, we also communicated publicly how the conversation went,” said the Senate spokeswoman. “This also includes that there was an interaction between Ms. Giffey and the supposed Klitschko.”
He certainly reacted to what was said by the Governing Mayor. “What was said in Russian was what was then translated into German.”
The ARD journalist Daniel Laufer had previously doubted that it was a “deep fake”, i.e. the use of artificial intelligence. Accordingly, the five published images correspond exactly to an interview that Klitschko gave to a Ukrainian journalist in April – and have now served as material for the deception.
There are no deviations in facial expressions or in the background, which is likely to happen with manipulation with AI.
According to the Senate Chancellery, the request for the phone call came by email on June 2, as did further communication. Regarding the discussion that the e-mail did not have the official domain ending of the mayor of Kiev and was therefore recognizable as a forgery, the Senate spokeswoman again pointed out that it was not unusual, especially since the beginning of the war, to receive e-mail addresses “without institutional E-mail signature or domain” to be contacted. [If you want all the latest news live on your phone, we recommend our app, which you can download here for Apple and Android devices.]
“Nevertheless, we will examine such inquiries more closely.” The mayors of Madrid, Vienna and Budapest also made similar fake phone calls with an alleged Vitali Klitschko. Madrid filed a complaint against unknown persons for pretending to be a false identity, in Austria the state security and the Ministry of the Interior began investigations.
The photo released by the Berlin Senate Chancellery shows Kiev’s mayor in a setting that looks like an interview with a Ukrainian journalist in the spring. Klitschko wears the same tan jacket and the Ukrainian flag can also be seen in the background.
Video footage of the interview at the time may have been used as a basis and merged in real time with the voice and lip movements of the person actually speaking to Giffey. Experts refer to this as a “face reenactment”.
“A false Klitschko has reported to several mayors in Europe who said absurd things,” said Klitschko on Saturday in Kyiv in a video distributed by “Bild”. Behind it is criminal energy.
It urgently needs to be found out who is behind it. Klitschko said he hopes to talk to Berlin’s mayor soon. According to the Senate spokeswoman, a date for this has not yet been set. But it should take place soon.
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However, the Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk considers the relationship between the two countries to be stable. “No deepfakes or other tricks by the Russians can shake the trust between Ukraine and Germany,” Melnyk told Welt am Sonntag. According to him, the incidents show that deepfakes need to be taken much more seriously as part of Russia’s hybrid warfare. “It’s a perfidious psychological weapon, and the technology keeps getting better,” said Melnyk.