Max Bernhard | Profile picture
journalist @correctiv_fakt @correctiv_orgㅣ@DowJones @WSJ alumㅣprev. work @dpa @LHreports @dwnews @guardian @WIRED othersㅣOSINT

May 17, 2022, 12 tweets

Seeing this image shared with claims that it is showing Zelenskyy's Russian passport. A quick thread on Russian passports and why this one is fake:

The image was shared by several pro-Russian accounts, including Ilya Kyva, a former Ukrainian law maker who defected to Russia. He says "Russian citizen" Zelenskyy should be prosecuted & Zelenskyy "had no right to be admitted to the presidential elections w/ dual citizenship"

Via reverse image search you can find the image with better resolution and no crop. This image was already being shared on pro-Russian sites and Telegram channels in late March. Let's look at some of the details first:

In Russia there are two types of passports, an internal one and an international one, for travel. This one is an internal one. On the top page, it says it was issued in 2001 by "УФМС" or Federal Migration Service (FMS). This is where it gets interesting…

The passport number on the side has been blurred out but we can see the first four digits. On Russian passports, the first two digits (46) indicate the region where it was issued, based on the OKATO system - in this case Moskovskaya area…

So far so good, this is also what it says in the "issued" field on the top page. But the third and fourth digits (03) should usually indicate when the form for the passport was printed. (h/t @bellingcat)…

@bellingcat If the passport was issued in 2001, how could the form for it be printed two years later? There is another thing that doesn't make sense. The passport says the issuing authority was the FMS, but they only started issuing passports in 2004

@bellingcat This is already pretty good evidence that the passport is fake. But there is more to it. If you reverse image search a cropped version of the image, correct the tilt, it turns up a lot of passports that look *very* similar

@bellingcat The stamp stays in the exact same position and the edges of the passport also seem identical in some key details. If you look further you can even find clearly fake passports that look like they're based on the same template, like the one below.

@bellingcat A lot of these "passport scans" are posted on anti-scam forums. So where might they be coming from? If you search for "generate fake passport" in Russian, some of the top results mention a program that is a couple of years old by now: "RF SCreater"

This software lets you create a fake Russian passport with all the details customizable. It even comes with a random generator and some ready-made fake passport photos and signatures. (The garbled text is because of missing Cyrillic fonts)

Turns out it uses the same template as the supposed Zelenskyy passport. In other words, this is most likely how the fake Russian passport was created. A little more on that here:…

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