The interview led to many people on social media falsely claiming the war in Ukraine had been orchestrated by the West
François Hollande, the former French president has been duped by two pro-Kremlin Russian pranksters Vivan and Lexus, who posed as the former Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko.
The video interview lasts about 15 mins and was recorded back in February. But it was only released a few days ago on social media and has already gained millions of views.
At one point, the Russian duo starts asking questions about the Minsk Agreements asking whether the peace treaty brokered by Francois Hollande, Germany's Chancellor at the time, Angela Merkel, Petro Poroshenko, and the Russian President Vladimir Putin, had been done in order to buy Ukraine time.
Signed in 2015 and then very quickly violated, the Minsk Agreements' goal was to end the war in Donbas, eastern Ukraine.
Francois Hollande answers: "There was the idea that it was Putin who had wanted to buy time, but it was us [France and Germany] who wanted to buy time to allow Ukraine to recover, to strengthen its resources."
"That's why we have to defend the Minsk negotiations, in which you [Poroshenko] played a very important role. It was precisely during these seven years that there were ways for Ukraine to strengthen itself, and this is where Putin was wrong: he underestimated the capacity of the Ukrainians and their resistance."
Some Twitter users were quick to declare the former French president’s interview as a confession the Minsk Agreements were never signed to guarantee peace in the area but instead for NATO to militarise Ukraine and to instigate a war.
Even Twitter boss Elon Musk reacted to the segment, asking whether it was real.
Contacted by the French newspaper Liberation, the former French president explained the pranksters used deepfake technology to make themselves look like Petro Poroshenko and distorted his comments.
Hollande told Liberation: “[The prankster] introduced himself as Poroshenko's chief of staff; we checked that it was really him, we had no reason to suspect anything.”
“But what counts are the words I said, and these are the words I say [publicly] in all the interviews, when it comes to the Minsk agreements and concerning Russia’s responsibility in the conflict »
But as Liberation explains, the former French leader had already made statements about the Minsk Agreements but clarifying it was to give Ukraine some time to recover from Russian attacks in Donbas: “It was for [Ukraine] to regain stability, balance and strengthen their military means in case they were attacked… We wanted to protect Ukraine [from an invasion] that Russia ended up committing."
"In none of my comments [...] did I suggest that we would have signed the Minsk Agreements to allow the Ukrainians to prepare for war," he explained to Liberation.
Other posts falsely claim Hollande admitted the West overthrew the Ukrainian government during the Maidan uprising in 2013, which he never said during the interview nor previously.
The prankster duo had previously tricked other European politicians including French President Emmanuel Macron, Polish President Andrzej Duda and then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson