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Fact check: Did Zelensky buy $20 million mansion in Florida?

A claim alleging that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky purchased a $20 million mansion in Vero Beach, Florida is recirculating online again amid his recent trip to the U.S. Capitol.

Zelensky met with members of Congress on Tuesday in a push for more aid ahead of the winter, when Russia is expected to target civilian infrastructure, like energy facilities, in an offensive move that will force Ukrainians to ration energy in the cold weather.

The Biden administration has sent more than $75 billion in cash and equipment to Ukraine since the war began in February 2022, but Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young notified congressional leadership last week that, “We are out of money—and nearly out of time.”

Zelensky Mansion Florida Millions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a meeting with the Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg on September 28, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine. A social media post circulated Wednesday claimed that Zelensky purchased a $20 million home in Vero Beach, Florida.
Yan Dobronosov

The Claim

Lauren Witzke, a far-right activist and the 2020 Republican Senate nominee for Delaware, recirculated the claim about Zelensky purchasing a Florida mansion on Wednesday, while calling on the U.S. to “CUT OFF UKRAINE” from additional funding for the war against Russia.

“Zelensky has sent Ukrainians to the slaughter and drained the U.S. Treasury dry with no intention of even staying in Ukraine and standing with his people—instead, he plans to flee and retire to beautiful beaches of Florida, where he has reportedly purchased a luxurious $20 million dollar mansion,” Witzke said on X, formerly Twitter.

Her post, which included photos of the alleged property, quickly racked up 9.1 million views and was recirculated by other popular conservative accounts, like Catturd, who said, “Please tell me this isn’t true.”

Lauren Witzke Zelensky Mansion

Witzke’s post about Zelensky’s alleged $20 million home in Vero Beach, Florida.
Twitter

The Facts

This is not the first time this claim about Zelensky has been made.

In April 2022, former Canadian politician Nicolas Tetrault accused Zelensky of misappropriating Ukrainian aid in a Facebook post, claiming that the Ukrainian president owned 15 homes, including a $35 million home in Florida, and three private planes. The post has since been deleted.

According to a fact check from PolitiFact last year, the earliest mention of the claim stems from a post that was made a day before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022 on the website EPrimeFeed, which only publishes posts from anonymous authors and appears to have ties to the Russian government. PolitiFact concluded the claims were false.

A reverse image search of the photos shared by Witzke pulls up a property address on Ponte Vedra Boulevard in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Public property records from St. Johns County shows that the one-and-a-half acre home was last purchased April 2019 for $6.3 million by a couple that Newsweek identified to be the owners of an Atlanta-based independent broker-dealer firm. The most recent valuation puts the property’s market value at almost $8 million today. The same information can also be found on real estate sites like Zillow, Realtor.com and Redfin.

Lachlan Markay, an investigative journalist who previously worked for Axios and The Daily Beast, also traced Witzke’s claim back to a post from DC Weekly, a website that’s run by American conspiracy theorist John Mark Dougan, who fled Florida for Moscow in 2016.

The DC Weekly post that alleged Zelensky purchased the Vero Beach mansion was written by “highly acclaimed journalist” Jessica Devlin, but Markay noted that the image used for Devlin’s author page was actually of a New York-based writer named Judy Batalion. Ukrainian state media has previously reported Devlin’s use of Batalion’s photo as her own.

The Ruling

False

False.

Although Zelensky and his business partners had several offshore companies and properties, according to financial documents leaked in 2021, none of those assets are in Florida.

And the Florida home that purportedly belongs to him actually belongs to a couple who bought the property more than four years ago.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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