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Zelensky, hotel and casino in Cyprus. Russian propaganda creates diplomatic tensions

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A story is spreading on the Internet about how President Volodymyr Zelensky allegedly bought a casino and hotel in Cyprus – posts about it are posted alongside various statements regarding Ukraine. This is another example of a story created by Russian propaganda to discredit the Ukrainian president – but also those who help Ukraine. Including the Polish government.

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“Zełenski reportedly bought the casino for 150,000,000 pounds (PLN 753 million). Are you surprised that Donek, Dudu and the c**t also want to get the commission for the Polish insert of the meat grinder?” – Yes he wrote June 7 on the website X Mateusz Jarosiewicz (original spelling of all posts, censorship of swear words from the editors). He is an active Internet user, co-creator of the Facebook page Neos – New System for Poland. Jarosiewicz has often been misleading with his posts. He claimed, for example, that after blocking the PESEL number in the event of a war, we would not have access to money in the bank – this type of falsehood regarding the new service we verified at Konkret24. Jarosiewicz also argued that fires market hall in Warsaw and waste landfill in Siemianowice Śląskiethat took place in May, as well as information about the need to close windows and stay at home, were deliberate actions aimed at limiting freedom – which it was fake theorem. In March, he published an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin false content.

Misleading post by Mateusz Jarosiewicz from June 7, 2024X.com

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In the post from June 7, he attached a recording lasting almost one and a half minutes. It is a story in the form of a montage of shots showing, among others, Cyprus, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, screenshots of websites. The narrator tells the story of Zelensky's alleged purchase of the casino. In the lower left corner is the logo of OdaTV, a Turkish news portal. At the bottom of the screen, a translation of the narrator's words into Turkish is displayed, with Polish subtitles superimposed on them.

“One of the largest casino hotels in Europe was recently purchased by a company owned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Film Heritage Inc. is currently the official owner of Vouni Palace Casino Hotel, located in Kyrenia, a city on the northern coast of Cyprus. Film Heritage Inc. is registered in Belize, and its owner is Volodymyr Zelensky, which was revealed in the Pandora Papers in 2021. The purchase was finalized in early May 2024 – this is how the Polish translation begins (original spelling).

It was further reported that it was not known how much “Zelensky's company” paid for the hotel and casino, but the “starting price for Vouni Palace” was supposed to be 150 million pounds. Then it was described where the hotel and casino is located and what it has to offer. “According to Booking.com, Vouni Palace is not accepting reservations from May 27, probably due to the ownership change process,” it said at the end of the video.

Jarosiewicz, the same video published on his YouTube channel. He titled it: “Zelensky reportedly bought a casino for 150,000,000 pounds (PLN 753 million).” His post on X was viewed 16.5 thousand times. times. It sparked a lot of discussion. “Sir, his wife has purchased approximately 25 properties in the US, GB and EU”; “He apparently bought them from Putin. He washes his hands with his hands,” wrote Internet users supporting this message as true.

However, not everyone believed these reports. “The word 'supposedly' closes the topic of this 'reliable' information”; “Why are you spreading Kremlin propaganda? Have you sold yourself to the Kacaps?”; “How much do they pay now for reproduction after Sputnik?”; “Another nonsense… Why are you doing this?”; “Russian fakery. There were already identical ones,” they wrote with disapproval.

“Your hero Zelensky just bought a casino and a hotel”, “this is how you fight the Russians”

Information about Zelensky's alleged purchase of the casino has been spreading on social media in recent days. Anonymous users of website X post it in discussions about events in Ukraine – thus trying to discredit the president of Ukraine.

“President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky bought one of the largest hotel-casinos in Europe. The casino is located in Kyrenia, in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Please comment” – he wrote e.g., on June 12, an anonymous user

“Zelensky bought a casino with a hotel, so you have to put more effort into it” – he stated On June 10, an Internet user reacted to a post by Mateusz Wodziński, known as Exen, who wrote that he had been organizing aid for the Ukrainian army for two years.

“Zelensky recently bought a casino in Cyprus, maybe he will help you”; “Your hero Zelensky just bought a casino and hotel in Turkey for $191 million. That's how you fight the Russians, you're barking up the wrong tree” – they wrote next X users in discussions about Ukraine.

The story about the casino is not true. This message was verified, among others, by: American fact-check editorial office Snopes, American Newsweek.com. There were also public denials.

The basis of the reports: a fake casino and hotel website and a text that has already disappeared from the Internet

The hotel and casino that Zelensky allegedly bought exists. Vuni Palace and Hotel & Casino is actually located in the city of Kyrenia in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (Northern Cyprus), a country recognized only by Turkey.

On June 1, 2024, the Turkish news portal OdaTV published a text titled: “This is what the Ukrainian war looks like… Zelensky is gambling… But really.” The article has already been removed from the OdaTV website, but it is now available archived version. The content coincides with the text given in the recording discussed above. According to the author of the article, the proof of Zelensky's purchase of the casino and hotel was the information on website complex: Casinohotelvunipalace.com. The footer of this page states that all copyrights belong to Film Heritage.

And it is worth noting here: this is the name of the company whose links with Zelensky were revealed by an international journalistic investigation Pandora Papers from 2021. Journalists described that Zelensky and his close associates were connected to a network of companies from tax havens – the British Virgin Islands, Belize and Cyprus – which were used to buy real estate in London. Before the 2019 presidential elections, Zelensky was said to have transferred shares in a key company to his friend Serhiy Shefhir (after the elections, he became the president's first advisor). According to journalists, Zelensky's family would still receive funds from the companies' activities. However, the issue of purchasing a hotel and casino in Cyprus did not appear in that investigation – but the very fact of such an investigation served as credence to the fake news about Zelensky's casino.

A fake website for a hotel and casino in Kyrenia suggested that its owner was a company linked to Volodymyr Zelensky.Casinohotelvunipalace.com

Except that Casinohotelvunipalace.com was a fake website for this hotel and casino. She stayed founded May 29, 2024, shortly before information about the alleged purchase of the casino by Zelensky began to circulate online.

The real hotel and casino website has an address Vunipalacehotel.com. There is no information suggesting that it is owned by a company associated with the President of Ukraine. In addition, while the fake site had only one language version – English – the real one has three language versions: English, Turkish and German (the main language in this region is Turkish).

The Ukrainian embassy and the president of Cyprus deny this

On June 4, 2024, the Embassy of Ukraine in Cyprus issued: announcement regarding reports of the alleged purchase of a casino by the President of Ukraine. “The mentioned false information is another lie aimed at discrediting Ukraine and its leaders in the eyes of the world community,” she wrote. She pointed out that there is no evidence to support this claim, which is spread by Russian propaganda. The Ukrainian outlet also notes that spreading this false story “also aims to create diplomatic tensions between Ukraine and Cyprus.”

The President of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulides, also commented on the matter. “The authorities of the Republic of Cyprus have investigated this case. I repeat, nothing of the sort has happened so far,” he said (quoted by the website In-Cyprus).

Casino owners: we did not sell

The real owner – the Oscar Group, founded in the 1970s by the Turkish Cypriot Erdem Oskar – also commented on the Internet rumors about the sale of the casino and hotel. On June 4, her press spokesman confirmed to the website of the Cypriot daily “Cyprus Mail“that the company still owns the Vuni Palace hotel and casino, and Zelensky is not its shareholder.

This is not the first false story about expensive foreign real estate that President Zelensky's family allegedly purchased during the war. Such messages spread by the Kremlin's propaganda are intended to discourage aid to Ukraine – their subtext is the thesis that the money transferred to this country goes to the president's private accounts.

For example, in 2023, the news spread that Zelensky's mother-in-law was going to buy it villa in Egypt for almost $5 million. The source of the “reports” was a non-existent investigative journalist, as verified by The New Arab. She confirmed that the entire story was fabricated. In April this year, a story circulated that Zelensky's wife Olena was going to buy it residence British King Charles III. This also turned out to be untrue.

READ MORE IN KONKRET24: Zelensky “purchases the former residence of King Charles”? Russian disinformation scheme

Main photo source: Viktor Kovalchuk/PAP

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