Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski: "Indeed we were all deceived"
Wojciech Strozyk/REPORTER/ imago images/Eastnews
The series of fraudulent video calls by an alleged Vitali Klitschko to European city leaders has been known for longer than before: There was a corresponding incident not only in Berlin, Budapest, Vienna and Madrid, but also in the Polish capital of Warsaw.
This was reported on Monday, among other things, by the Polish website fakt.pl.
According to this, Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski had a video call at the beginning of June with someone who looked and sounded like Kiev Mayor Klitschko, but who was not Klitschko.
The conversation went "unusually," it was said, and the Warsaw City Hall then contacted the Kiev authorities.
They had made it clear that Klitschko had not had a conversation during the period in question.
Trzaskowski's office then turned on the cybercrime department of the Warsaw police station.
According to the report, the invitation to the video call came from the official address of the Kiev City Hall.
The person in the video call said her face and voice were "deceptively similar."
"Indeed, we were all deceived, including the mayors of Vienna, Budapest, Berlin and Madrid," Trzaskowski told Radio ZET.
“The conversation did not touch on sensitive issues, but I decided to inform the Polish security services and the Ukrainian embassy about the incident anyway.
I have already spoken to Vitali Klitschko several times and we discussed the principles of cooperation in case of war live in Kyiv.«
Unlike the Berlin Senate Chancellery, Trzaskowski did not speak of a possible deepfake.
When asked by SPIEGEL, his spokesman only said that they did not have the necessary expertise to be able to assess that.
The spokesmen for the mayors of Vienna and Madrid also did not want to answer the question of how the deception was most likely to be accomplished.
It was said from Vienna that it was "everything in the realm of speculation."
Apparently there are no video recordings of the talks.
According to a spokeswoman, there is also no recording of Franziska Giffey's video call because it "was planned as a confidential conversation".
Without video recording, it becomes difficult to debunk the technology
The video files could provide information about whether they were deepfakes or whether the scammers worked with prepared video snippets that were synchronized by a voice impersonator.
This is sometimes referred to as a cheap fake or shallow fake because it requires less technical effort than a deepfake.
The fact that the facial expressions and lip movements of the fake Klitschko in the video snippets should have at least roughly matched what was said speaks against the video snippet thesis.
In the case of the Berlin deception, at least one other person who understands Russian was present in addition to Berlin's Governing Mayor Giffey (SPD), who speaks a little Russian.
The supposed Klitschko spoke Russian at his own request, although the real Klitschko speaks German.
The reason given was that his employees in the room should have understood what was said.
What the fake Klitschko said was then translated, and as part of that process he was heard himself.
Larger deviations in the facial expressions should have been noticed as long as they weren't interpreted as typical stuttering in a video conference.
In addition, according to the Senate Chancellery, the wrong Klitschko responded to queries from Franziska Giffey.
Someone should have played appropriate video snippets with correspondingly quick reactions.
Giffey himself said in the state press conference on Tuesday that the lip movements corresponded "exactly" to what was said.
That speaks against the deepfake suspicion
One argument against the Berliners’ deepfake thesis is that the technology is on the way to making such fraud possible – but so far there are no convincing examples of a deepfake in real time, including convincing voice synthesis and without visible artifacts.
On the other hand, the rbb journalist Daniel Laufer discovered striking similarities in a comparison of the few available screenshots from Giffey's conversation with still images from a Klitschko video from April.
In both cases, Klitschko wears the same clothes and sits in front of the same background. There are also images in which facial expressions and the visible background are congruent.
Since a deepfake does not copy existing images but generates new ones based on them, such a match is highly unlikely.
On Friday, the Senate Chancellery announced that it was "apparently" a deepfake.
On Tuesday, Giffey weakened the statement: "We can't say for sure whether it was really like that." Ultimately, it was "not that important whether it was a deepfake or a shallow fake or a face reenactment".
The latter refers to a technique with which a person's facial expressions are captured by a camera and transferred to the video image of another person, as can be seen in the example here.
According to Giffey, it is significant that it was identity theft “at the expense of Vitali Klitschko” and a criminal offense under German law.
In any case, it is "a completely new form of fake," a form of manipulation "that even experts can hardly or not distinguish."
Beyond the technical process of the fraudulent calls, the motive of the perpetrators is also part of the investigation.
A possible goal of such actions, Giffey said, citing the Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin, is to shake the mutual trust between the two sides.
Another could be "to discredit the interlocutors, who are above all supporters and partners of Ukraine."
According to Giffey, it is also conceivable that such incidents not only pose a political threat, "but also one for cyber security" - as part of a hacker attack on the city administration's systems.
According to previous knowledge, this was not the case here, it is said.
Discredit, espionage background or "caricature backgrounds" are all possible explanations and are now being investigated by the State Criminal Police Office.