Posts Use Bogus Document to Falsely Claim Zelenskyy Plans Move to Florida

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Quick Take

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has traveled throughout the world seeking support for Ukraine’s effort to resist Russia’s invasion, but he has always returned to his war-torn country. Some social media posts — showing a fake naturalization document — falsely claim preparations are underway to bring him to the United States.


Full Story

The war in Ukraine, which began with Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, is approaching its second anniversary, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is facing new challenges domestically and internationally.

Zelenskyy replaced his top general, Army Commander Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, on Feb. 8 after Ukraine’s unsuccessful counteroffensive and Zaluzhnyi’s comments that the war had reached a stalemate.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has had trouble in recent months securing U.S. funding to support its ongoing war effort. The Biden administration has committed $44.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the invasion. But as of late, Ukraine has had problems getting U.S. assistance, as a $60 billion aid package remains stalled in Congress.

Against that backdrop, a video shared on social media falsely claims a report from an anonymous Secret Service agent shows a plan is underway to bring Zelenskyy to the U.S. as an American citizen.

The video, narrated by former Fox News host Clayton Morris, begins with the text, “Is Vladimir Zelensky about to become a U.S. citizen and be shipped off to live in the sunny state of Florida?” Morris, the host of the YouTube show Redacted, has spread other misinformation about the war in Ukraine, as we’ve written.

The video claims to show a naturalization document with Zelenskyy’s photo, and shares audio of the purported Secret Service agent saying, in part, “the Biden administration is making active preparations based on the idea that first, Zelenskyy won’t be the president of Ukraine after next spring, and second, that he and his family will need long-term or permanent security in the United States.”

The claim about Zelenskyy appeared in a Nov. 29 article on the Russia-based website DC Weekly, which has trafficked in disinformation about Zelenskyy and the war, the BBC has reported. Shayan Sardarizadeh, a journalist at BBC Verify, has monitored disinformation published by DC Weekly.

Elements of the naturalization document shown in the video reveal it is not authentic. The document omits Zelenskyy’s middle name, Oleksandrovych, which is required on a certificate of naturalization. The certificate must include “an applicant’s full legal name” which “includes the person’s first name, middle name(s) (if any), and family name (or surname) without any initials or nicknames.”

Also, in an interview with AFP Fact Check, immigration lawyer Marcin Muszynski said that all naturalization certificates issued in 2023 would have been signed by Ur M. Jaddou, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, the document shown in the video is signed by a person named “Haley Burns.”

Steve Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell University, also told AFP Fact Check that an authentic naturalization certificate would include the person’s signature next to the photo. But the certificate shown in the video has no such signature.

In addition, the bio for the author of the DC Weekly story, Jessica Delvin, seems to be fabricated. The image that is supposedly Jessica Delvin is actually an image of New York-based author Judy Batalion.

Zelenskyy has traveled extensively outside Ukraine during the war to ask for support from other countries. But he has been committed to returning and living in Ukraine throughout the fighting.

When the war began, Ukraine’s security service reportedly held an empty train on standby in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, to take the president to Poland or another safe location outside the country. Zelenskyy remained in the city.


Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.

Sources

Christensen, Sean. “Online Video Misrepresents Ukraine’s Conscription of Women in War with Russia.” FactCheck.org. 12 Oct 2023.

CNN Editorial Research. “Volodymyr Zelensky Fast Facts.” Updated 24 May 2023.

Congressional Research Service. U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine. Updated 15 Feb 2024.

Czarnecka, Maja. “Fake Zelensky US naturalization certificate spreads online.” AFP Factcheck. 2 January 2024.

Jankowicz, Mia. “Zelenskyy’s aides kept an emergency escape train on standby for him at the start of the war. He never took it.” Business Insider. 24 Jan 2024.

Kiely, Eugene and Robert Farley. “Russian Rhetoric of Attack Against Ukraine: Deny, Deflect, Mislead.” FactCheck.org. 24 Feb 2022.

Lawless, Jill. “Zelenskyy’s European tour aimed to replenish Ukraine’s arsenal and build political support.” Associated Press. 16 May 2023.

Liptak, Kevin. “5 takeaways from Volodymyr Zelensky’s historic visit to Washington.” 22 Dec 2022.

Pereira, Ivan, and Patrick Reevell. “What to know about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.” ABC News. 20 Dec 2022.

Robinson, Olga, Shayan Sardarizadeh and Mike Wendling. “How pro-Russian ‘yacht’ propaganda influenced US debate over Ukraine aid.” BBC. 20 Dec 2023.

Smid, Theo. “Ukraine external support – January 2024.” Atradius. 1 February 2024.

Talmazan, Yuliya. “Zelenskyy replaces Ukraine’s top general in shake-up of military leadership.” NBC News. 8 Feb 2024.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Chapter 3 – Certificate of Naturalization.” Current as 24 Jan 2024.

Zanona, Melanie, Annie Grayer and Haley Talbot. “Speaker Johnson faces critical decision on Ukraine aid as international pressure grows to act.” CNN. 19 Feb 2024.

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