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Fact Check: Did Zelensky’s wife spend $1.1 million at Cartier in New York?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and first lady Olena Zelenska visited the U.S. and Canada on a joint trip recently, imploring continued support in their country’s war against Russia.

Appearing in Washington, D.C., and the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Zelensky urged lawmakers in Congress to maintain contributions, despite resistance among some Republicans for further funding.

However, according to one viral post this week, Zelenska had embarked on her own spending drive, with a claim that she spent $1.1 million on Cartier jewelry during a trip to the Big Apple.

The Claim

A post on X, formerly Twitter, by user @MyLordBebo, posted on October 4, 2023, viewed 599,400 times says: “🚨‼️🇺🇸 BREAKING: “Olena Zelenska spends $1,100,000 on Cartier jewelry in NYC and gets sales employee fired!”

“-> At least the money stays in the US.”

The post includes a video, which appears to be a recording of an Instagram story from user “gorgeous.bb.jeanette.” The video includes a recording of someone who claimed that while they were an intern at Cartier in New York, Zelenska visited the store where they were working.

The person claimed: “When I showed her some our pieces she just shouted directly at my face ‘Who said that I need your opinion?'” and that after Zelenska spoke to the manager, “I got fired.”

They added that as they were packing to leave, they printed a copy of a receipt of Zelenska’s purchases. A photo of the receipt can be seen at the end of the video, which mentions Zelenska’s name and a total bill of $1,110,520.

A slide at the end of the video says: “She got me fired for nothing so I will show her true face to everybody. She spends over a million at CARTIER while her country is at war. I’M SO P***** RIGHT NOW!!! Why couldn’t she come spend her stolen money and just go to the next boutique. WHY RUIN MY LIFE?!?!”

The Facts

Looking at the dates of Zelenska’s visit and other surrounding information, the claim is almost certainly made up.

The receipt in the video is dated September 22, 2023, when Zelenska was in Ottawa, Canada, with Zelensky. The pair visited the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, with Zelensky giving an address mid-afternoon that day.

The first lady and the president arrived in Canada on Thursday evening, attending the Canadian Parliament from around midday Friday. Zelensky’s address ended at about 2:20 p.m., after which he attended a press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The morning was occupied with other local engagements and meetings.

A live blog from Canadian broadcaster CTV News said that after the Parliamentary address, the Zelensky delegation went to evening meetings in Toronto.

Even if we were to assume that Zelenska was not part of that delegation or otherwise went to New York after attending Parliament, she would have had to have made it to Cartier in New York before 8 p.m. (the latest closing time in the city among its three stores).

Not minding the logistical complexities and diplomatic insult of leaving a Canadian political visit to go shopping in New York, and not to be noticed by any Canadian or global press, there are plenty of other reasons that this claim is fictitious.

Before the video on X was sent, there were no reports of a shopping trip or any other photos or evidence of her visiting Cartier or other retailers in New York during the trip. While she may have shopped while she was in New York, it’s unusual that no such photos were taken or reports made of that happening.

The receipt alone is no proof, either. Photos of Cartier receipts are widely available online and the document shown on social media is almost certainly a forgery.

The original version of the video posted on X, featuring someone who claimed to be a former intern of Cartier, could not be found. The username “gorgeous.bb.jeanette” which appears at the top of the video, is registered on Instagram, but the account is set to private, with no posts or followers.

Although the video could have been copied from another source by “gorgeous.bb.jeanette,” tha does not appear to be the case.

The video was shared initially via pro-Russian social media channels, a sign it may have been part of a disinformation effort. It was posted on Wednesday morning by Telegram user infantmilitario, and later picked up by other Russian and English-speaking channels.

@MyLordBebo, who shared the claim on X, has been associated with other misleading claims about characters and events associated with Ukraine. Last month, they shared a rumor, without evidence, that a drone strike in the Russian city of Pskov was fired from Estonia, a NATO country. Estonia firmly denied the claims and the rumor was not attributed to any reliable source. The X account regularly shares other anti-Ukrainian content.

Further, the Cartier claim has more than a resemblance to other misleading claims about Zelenska embarking on expensive shopping trips. In December 2022, unfounded rumors circulated that she had spent $40,000 during a spree in Paris.

Like this story, the rumor coincided with her arrival on a diplomatic visit. It was shared without evidence by a secretive news website in the northeast of England and an unverified American X account.

Newsweek has reached out to Cartier and the Office of the President of Ukraine for comment.

The Ruling

False.

The alleged Cartier receipt, used to claim that Olena Zelenska spent $1.1 million on jewelry in New York, is dated the same day she and President Zelensky were in Canada.

Looking at her itinerary, there is no realistic prospect that Zelenska would have been able to visit Canada and then fly to New York to go shopping without attracting attention.

Further, the social media account from which the claim came could not be found, apart from one private account with no posts or followers. The original source of the video that contained the claim could not be found. There were no reports of similar shopping trips while Zelenska was in the U.S. recently.

The claim was initially shared among pro-Russian social media channels that have been associated with misleading information about Ukraine and is similar to another misleading story about a Zelenska shopping spree published last year.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek’s Fact Check team

False: The claim is demonstrably false. Primary source evidence proves the claim to be false. Read more about our ratings.

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