Did Zelenskyy buy a luxury mansion in Egypt with Western aid money through his mother-in-law

By August 31, 2023 International Politics

We came across the following post on a Singapore-based Telegram channel:

The post claims that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy purchased a luxury mansion in Egypt ‘thanks to a donation by (the now bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange) FTX via Temasek (Singapore state-owned investment fund Temasek Holdings)’.

The post includes a link to an article on the site NaturalNews.com. We have previously debunked claims on NaturalNews.com, which is a far-right platform that has been found to promote conspiracy theories and disinformation.

The Natural News article did not include any information regarding FTX or Temasek. A keyword search revealed that the link between FTX and Ukraine stems from a debunked claim in late 2022 that FTX was being used by Ukraine to launder aid money from the US. The claim had been circulated by popular conservative media figures, Russian state media and the former president Donald Trump.

There is no reported link between Temasek and Ukraine. However, Temasek had to write off a significant investment in FTX earlier this year after the cryptocurrency exchange went bankrupt. The link to Temasek may have been included by the post author as part of conspiratorial speculation over the nature of the failed investment.

The Natural News article states that Zelenskyy bought a mansion in the tourist city of El Gouna on the coast of the Red Sea, next door to the actress Angelina Jolie. The mansion was said to have been bought for US$4.85 million on 16 May, and according to unnamed ‘analysts’, the money came from ‘Western financial aid packages’ (meant for the war effort against Russia). The article cites information from ‘Egyptian investigative journalist Mohammed Al-Alawi’, who published documents that purportedly show that the house was purchased in the name of one Olga Kiyashko, who is said to be Zelenskyy’s mother-in-law.

The Natural news article does not present any of the journalist’s findings, and instead provides more links to other sources as the basis of its claims. After investigating the linked sources, we found the primary article to be one published in the Nigerian online newspaper The Punch. According to Media Bias/Fact Check, a media bias and credibility resource, The Punch has a mixed record of factual reporting.

The Punch article includes an embedded link to a YouTube video that it says is recorded by the journalist Al-Alawi giving information about his findings. We were unable to view the video as the account had been closed by YouTube at the time of access. While the reason for the account closure is not certain, YouTube accounts may be terminated under their misinformation policy.

The article also includes three screenshots of what it says are documents proving the sale of the mansion to Olga Kiyashko. The documents, titled a Sale Contract, are heavily redacted with a black marker and is written in both English and Arabic. They also appear to contain stamps with the Egyptian coat of arms, though the stamps appear distorted and are all lacking clarity.

The document indicates that the buyer of the property is named Olga Kiyashko and that the nationality is Ukrainian. No additional personal information details are provided in the document that could help identify the buyer.

We were unable to find any sources that corroborated the Punch’s reporting. All other web sources that reported on the story referred to the Punch as the source for their information. As such, we did a search on Zelenskyy’s mother-in-law to determine if any information corroborated the Punch’s reporting.

Mistaken Identity

Zelenskyy’s wife, Olena Zelenska, has given interviews with Vogue and the Guardian confirming that her maiden name was Kiyashko. However, we could find no credible sources detailing Zelenskyy’s mother-in-law’s given (first) name.

The impression that Zelenskyy’s mother-in-law is named Olga appears to emanate from an article in the Moscow Times, a Netherlands-based Russian language online newspaper that has been banned in Russia for its reporting on the war in Ukraine. The Moscow Times has a clean record of factual reporting.

The Moscow Times reported in April 2022 that a Moscow resident by the name of Olga Vitalyevna Kiyashko was being harassed by Russian media for sharing the name of Zelenskyy’s mother-in-law. However, the article specified that the shared name she was being targeted for was the last name under which she owned her property, Kiyashko, rather than her full name.

The following month, a few low-quality entertainment sites, including celebritiesbuzz.com.gh, mufcarena.com and vimbuzz.com described Zelenskyy’s mother-in-law as Olga Kiyashko or Olha Kyiashko (an alternative romanisation of the name). This information appears to be poorly sourced as two of these sites describe her mother as an actress, referring to the actress Olha Zhukovtsova-Kyiashko, who appeared alongside Zelenskyy in the satirical comedy Servant of the People.

Zhukovtsova-Kyiashko was born in 1984, and therefore cannot be the mother of Olena Zelenska, who was born in 1978. Zelenska revealed in her Guardian and Vogue interviews that her mother was an engineer and a manager at a factory, rather than an actress. There is therefore no firm evidence that Zelenskyy’s mother-in-law is named Olga.

Yet Another Spurious Property Claim?

While researching the information in the post, we found that bogus claims linking Zelenskyy to property purchases using Western military aid money had been debunked on multiple occasions. Debunked claims since the beginning of the war include suggestions that Zelenskyy lived in a $5.5 million mansion with an infinity swimming pool, that he had purchased an $8 million villa for his parents, and that he owned a $35 million home in Florida.

There is a no evidence that directly contradicts the claims in the Telegram post. However, given the poor credibility of the sources, the lack of corroborating sources, and the persistent trend of disinformation falsely suggesting Zelenskyy’s misuse of Western military aid through property purchases, we assess this claim to be highly likely to be false.

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