Turkey's primary opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who is the strongest competitor against the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, alleged that Russia had created deceptive videos using deepfake technology, just three days before the crucial elections in the country last Sunday.
Following Kilicdaroglu's allegations, the Kremlin denied any involvement in Turkey's presidential election campaign.
Turkey's Opposition Accused the Ruling Party of Using Deepfakes
Turkey's main opposition accused the ruling party of interest in influencing the elections’ outcome through the use of deepfake audio.
In an exclusive interview with HaberTurk television, Ozgur Ozel, deputy chairman of the opposition, revealed that they had received information indicating that government officials were engaged in discussions on the dark web to release fabricated audio recordings before the elections. Ozel expressed concern over these preparations, highlighting the potential dissemination of deceptive audio via the dark web.
These statements followed a mysterious midnight warning from Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), who implicated Erdogan's communications czar, Fahrettin Altun, and three members of his team in secretive activities on the dark web.
With only two days remaining until the crucial final days of the election campaign, the main opposition leader took to Twitter to issue a stern warning. He cautioned against dealing with the dark web, emphasizing the risk of falling into the hands of foreign intelligence. The opposition leader also made a veiled reference to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, suggesting that such tactics were beyond the capabilities of his rivals.
In response, Turkey's Communication Director dismissed the warning as slander and implied knowledge of the opposition leader's motives.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu Targeted by Cyberwarfare
Investigative journalist Murat Yetkin revealed that a high-level source from the main opposition party had provided information about a government conspiracy against Kilicdaroglu through cyberwarfare.
The plot allegedly involves the creation of fake audio recordings and deals with hackers on the dark web to target pro-opposition websites. These reports have raised concerns among opposition supporters as the country approaches one of its most fiercely contested elections. While Kilicdaroglu's popularity is on the rise, according to polls, the impact of manipulation on voters remains uncertain.
Turkey's Opposition Accuses Russia of Fabricating 'Deepfakes'
In tweets posted in Turkish and Russian, Kilicdaroglu pointed a finger at Russia for interfering in the election by producing deepfake content targeting former presidential candidate Muharrem Ince.
The tweet reads, “Dear Russian Friends, You are behind the montages, conspiracies, Deep Fake content and tapes that were exposed in this country yesterday. If you want the continuation of our friendship after May 15, get your hands off the Turkish state. We are still in favor of cooperation and friendship.”
Muharrem Ince announced his withdrawal from the race after a fabricated sex tape circulated online, allegedly implicating him. He accused his former party, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), of smearing him to push him out of the race in favor of Kilicdaroglu. While Kilicdaroglu did not provide further details, unconfirmed reports of Russian meddling in the campaign were previously mentioned by another CHP member in an interview with Turkey's Sozcu newspaper.
Moscow Rejects Claims of Meddling in Turkish Election
The Kremlin responded to Kilicdaroglu's allegations on Friday, firmly denying any interference in Turkey's presidential election campaign.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that such statements were strongly rejected, emphasizing that there was no basis for discussing any form of interference. Peskov further labeled those who provided Kilicdaroglu with such information as liars. He highlighted the high value placed on bilateral relations between Moscow and Ankara, praising Turkey's responsible and independent stance on regional and global issues.
Previously, Kilicdaroglu expressed his intention to the BBC to reorient Turkey's foreign policy if elected president, prioritizing relations with the West over the Kremlin.
However, his foreign policy adviser, Unal Cevikoz, conveyed a different message during an interview with the Russian state-backed channel RT. Cevikoz stated that there would not be a significant shift in foreign policy towards Russia and expressed his belief that Kilicdaroglu would maintain good relations with Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia.