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Chinese influencer poses as Russian soldier fighting in Ukraine to scam netizens

This article is more than 12 months old

Sporting a bald head, a thick beard and clad in military uniform, a Chinese influencer claimed he was a Russian special forces soldier fighting in the war in Ukraine.

The content creator who went by the online alias “Pavel Korchatie” and had close to 400,000 followers on the short video app Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, would share his “first-hand” experience of the war, the South China Morning Post reported.

His videos would typical start with a greeting to viewers in Mandarin – “Hello, friends from China” – followed by his personal stories from the war, which inspired many social media users to cheer on the Russian troops, SCMP reported.

In one video, he was seen standing in front of a purported power plant, claiming to have captured Ukrainian prisoners, the newspaper added.

The Insider reported that his face would regularly become distorted in his videos – a tell-tale sign that he was using deepfake AI technology to mask his identity.

As his following grew, he started an e-commerce business through an online store on Douyin, where he offered a range of Russian specialities including honey, beer and vodka, according to SCMP. He received more than 200 orders.

However, his ploy came to light when Douyin users found that the IP addresses displayed in his videos were mostly from central China’s Henan province, which also matched his Mandarin accent.

A purported Ukrainian nuclear power plant featured in the video also turned out to be a power station in Luoyang, a city in Henan, and the cars seen in the background of the video had mainland Chinese number plates, SCMP reported.

Douyin has since cracked down on the content creator. In a statement, the social media company said: “Some accounts have been posting videos, claiming to be from Russia and soldiers at war. They spread false information such as ‘battlefield videos’ and ‘battlefield movements’ to attract attention and gain traffic.”

Douyin added that it has banned the account, which has violated the app’s regulations, indefinitely.

It is not the first time a Chinese influencer has pretended to be a foreigner to gain online popularity, said SCMP.

In 2022, social media observers raised doubts about an influencer named “Russian Nana”, whom they accused of being a Chinese man impersonating a Russian woman by using face-swapping technology.

The influencer had more than two million Douyin followers and used his popularity on the platform to boost e-commerce sales.

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