False: Zelenskyy did not say he uses cocaine in this interview
Various Chinese social media posts on April 20 claimed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview that he takes cocaine in the morning, which, according to the post’s translation, helps sustain his energy until evening.
The 25-second footage was shared on YouTube shorts and Facebook in Chinese and similar claims appeared in English on Twitter (here) and Spanish (here). The video has been viewed over 37,000 times and collectively shared over 800 times on the said platforms.
The claim, however, is false. The clip is composed of stitched frames and spliced audio taken from various parts of a longer interview to make it appear that Zelenskyy said he was using cocaine.
An image search of one of the frames of the clip has led to this article published on the Ukrainian news site dialog.au on Jan. 19, 2019. The article mentions an interview Zelenskyy had with another news website, Ukrayinska Pravda months before the presidential election held in March of the same year.
The full interview, which ran for over an hour, was uploaded along with a news article on Jan. 21, 2019. The footage used in the spliced clip in the misleading posts can be found starting from 7:45.
Georgia-based journalist Sophie Okhanashvili helped Annie Lab translate the portion of the interview where the topic of drugs was raised.
In the interview, Zelenskyy was asked if he takes drugs, specifically cocaine, because he has so much energy. This was his response:
“I am not using any drugs. I am smelling coffee. I love coffee too much. That’s true. I really am smelling coffee. I am not using any kind of drugs. I can drink one glass of wine, yes.”
He also said he plays sports to gain energy, adding that he observes a regimen of waking up at seven in the morning, walking his dog and then playing sports. He said that playing sports gives him enough energy until evening.
Below is the visual comparison of the original clip with the spliced version (only the original audio track is kept):
This misleading claim has also been debunked by Greek fact-checking sites Ellinika Hoaxes and AFP.
Allegations of Zelenskyy using drugs have emerged last month, with pro-Moscow Ukrainian parliament member Ilya Kyva mentioning it on Russian state media Channel 1.
Another doctored video by pro-Russian accounts was debunked by Bellingcat (see below).
Pro-Russian accounts are currently sharing a video (left) that has a big ol' pile of cocaine digitally added to smear Zelensky. The original video (right), sans cocaine, can be found here https://t.co/cChEsa7Sbj pic.twitter.com/JAfGsiEIDj
— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) April 23, 2022