Fact Check: Rumor Says Ukraine's President Zelenskyy Bought a Casino in Cyprus. Here Are the Facts


Claim:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy purchased a casino resort in Cyprus in May 2024.

Rating:

Rating: FalseRating: False

Rating: False

In early June 2024, accounts on X began sharing the claim that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — at the height of his country’s fight against Russian military occupation — purchased a resort in Cyprus named the Vuni Palace Casino Resort and Hotel the previous month.

The claim was first made in a since-deleted June 1, 2024, story by the Turkish news outlet OdaTV. It was then amplified, in part, by an account on X, Aussie Cossack, that describes itself as a “registered foreign agent for Sputnik News” — a Russian state-controlled media agency.

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This claim was not true. OdaTV based its assertion on a fake website for the Vuni Palace Casino Resort and Hotel. Here’s how we know the claim has no merit.

The Short Life Cycle of Lazy Propaganda

In the June 1 story, OdaTV reported on the purported sale of the Vuni Palace to a Zelenskyy-linked offshore company named Film Heritage Inc. Based on a video accompanying the report, this assertion stemmed from the copyright field of a website — casinohotelvunipalace.com — that appeared to belong to the Vuni Palace Casino Resort and Hotel:

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Film Heritage Inc. is a Belize-based company identified in a 2021 investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project as owned by Zelenskyy and his wife. OdaTV’s report used a website for the Vuni Palace with that company in its footer as evidence that Zelenskyy was using the war against Russia to profit personally — a narrative increasingly pushed by Russian propagandists (translated via Google):

Volodymyr Zelensky is collecting aid by preaching to the whole world that Ukraine needs help against the ‘Russian occupation’. While Western countries were sending money, weapons and ammunition to Ukraine as a body, Zelensky entered the casino business instead of managing the war. It was learned that a company owned by Zelensky bought a casino in Cyprus.

“Film Heritage Inc.” He now appears to be the official owner of the “Vuni Palace Casino Hotel” located in Kyrenia in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

The Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, or Northern Cyprus, is a de facto state within Cyprus recognized by only Turkey. The primary language in the region is Turkish. The purported website for the Vuni Palace Casino Hotel, however, has no Turkish content — or content in any language besides English.

This alleged Vuni Palace website also was dubious because, as the Cyprus Investigative Reporting Network noted on X, it was registered on May 29, 2024, just days before OdaTV made the claim for which the website served as the sole evidence.

The Vuni Palace Casino Resort’s actual website is vunipalacehotel.com. In addition to having Turkish content, this site makes no mention of Film Heritage Inc. The actual owners of Vuni Palace have denied that their casino was sold.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Cyprus rebuffed the accusation on Zelenskyy’s part in a statement, describing the assertion as Russian propaganda:

Russian propaganda spreads a fake story that the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has allegedly become the owner of one of the largest casinos in Europe, which is located in Cyprus. However, the publication provides no evidence to support its claim. The information itself is false.

The president of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulides, responded to the report as well, saying there was no evidence to support the claims, as reported by In-Cyprus:

When asked about the allegations, Christodoulides said: “The authorities of the Republic of Cyprus have investigated the matter. I repeat, so far, nothing of the sort has emerged.

OdaTV appears to have deleted the original story making the claim that Zelenksyy purchased the casino.

The Bottom Line

In sum, the claim that Zelenskyy purchased a casino in Cyprus is belied by the fact that the owners of that casino say they have not sold it, by the fact that the original reporting on the claim was based on a fake website, and by the fact that this original reporting was deleted. Because no real evidence supports the claim, Snopes rates it “False.”

Sources:

elton, Catherine, and Joseph Menn. “Russian Trolls Target U.S. Support for Ukraine, Kremlin Documents Show.” Washington Post, 8 Apr. 2024. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/04/08/russia-propaganda-us-ukraine/.

Hotel Casino Vuni Palace. https://casinohotelvunipalace.com/. Accessed 4 June 2024.

“Hotel In North Denies Being Owned By Zelenskiy.” Cyprus Mail, https://cyprus-mail.com/2024/06/04/hotel-in-north-denies-being-owned-by-zelenskiy/.

Loginova, Elena. “Pandora Papers Reveal Offshore Holdings of Ukrainian President and His Inner Circle.” OCCRP, https://www.occrp.org/en/the-pandora-papers/pandora-papers-reveal-offshore-holdings-of-ukrainian-president-and-his-inner-circle. Accessed 4 June 2024.

Ukrainian Embassy Denounces “Russian Propaganda” over Zelenskyy Casino Story. 4 June 2024, https://in-cyprus.philenews.com/local/ukrainian-embassy-denounces-russian-propaganda-over-zelenskyy-casino-story/.

Vuni Palace Hotel Spa & Convention. https://www.vunipalacehotel.com/. Accessed 4 June 2024.



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