Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko demands clarification after deep fakes
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko makes a video message during the German Film Award at the Messehallen am Funkturm. Britta Pedersen/dpa
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko makes a video message during the German Film Award at the Messehallen am Funkturm. Britta Pedersen/dpa

Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko issued a demand for clarification after a slew of deep fake videos fooled mayors in European capitals into thinking they were talking with him.

"This is criminal energy. It must be urgently investigated who is behind it," Klitschko said in a video shared by the Bild newspaper on Saturday.

"Several mayors in Europe have been contacted by a fake Klitschko who has said absurd things," Klitschko said, adding that official talks would only be organized through official channels in Kiev.

He also never needs a translator for talks in German or English, he added.

Earlier, German state security officials began investigations into a person who appeared to be Klitschko and Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey.

Police assume the incident was politically motivated, a spokesperson told dpa. The state police are responsible for politically motivated crime.

Friday's call with a man claiming to be Klitschko broke off after about 15 minutes as suspicion grew he was an imposter.

Giffey's spokeswoman Lisa Frerichs said the first quarter of an hour was "completely unremarkable," then topics arose that raised the mayor's doubts, such as when he wanted to talk about Ukrainians "trying to obtain social benefits in Berlin."

Frerichs said the last topic, on gay rights, was even more unusual: "He asked if we could support Kiev in an advisory capacity to host some kind of CSD (Christopher Street Day). That was already more than strange in light of the war."

The connection was then terminated or broken off, according to the Berlin mayor's office.

The mayor's administrative staff later said in a tweet that Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, confirmed that Giffey had not been talking to Klitschko.

The Senate Chancellery assumes that digital manipulation was involved. "From all appearances, we are dealing with 'deep fake'," Frerichs said.

"Deep fakes" can take the form of technically sophisticated videos that appear to realistically depict speech and actions of a real life person.

Klitschko told Bild on Friday that he hoped to contact Giffey "over the phone through my official channels soon."

Madrid Mayor José Luis Martinez-Almeida was also the target of a fake call with Klitschko, the spokesperson for his office said. He broke off the conversation, mayor's office spokesperson Daniel Bardavío Colebrook confirmed.