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Fact check: Did Zelenskyy buy King Charles' Highgrove House?

April 10, 2024

A website that wants you to think it's a UK-based news outlet claims Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has bought Highgrove House — a mansion previously owned by King Charles III.

A collage of a screenshot from a fake news website claiming Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy bought a mansion once belonging to King Charless III, who is also seen in the image, as is the home, and the king's former butler
A fake news website claims Ukraine's President Zelenskyy bought a mansion that formerly belonged to King Charles IIIImage: The London Crier

Claim: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has purchased Highgrove House, a mansion previously owned by King Charles and Queen Camilla, for £20 million (€23 million; $25 million). This claim appears on a website called "The London Crier"and in posts on X, formerly Twitter. This tweet has been viewed about 125,000 times.

DW fact check: Fake.

A picture of Highgrove House and its lush green garden
The official Highgrove House website makes no mention of the mansion's saleImage: Chris Jackson/picture alliance / empics

There is no evidence to support the claim and no established British media outlet has reported on the mansion's sale. Likewise, the official Highgrove House websitemakes no mention of the house having changed hands.

"Highgrove is the private residence of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla, near Tetbury in Gloucestershire," the site reads. The Highgrove press team did not respond to a written DW request submitted before the publication of this article.

Dubious source: A website made to look like a news site

The London Crier cites a YouTube video uploaded just days before the article was published as its source. According to the video, six Highgrove House staff, as well as King Charles' former butler, Grant Harrold, said the mansion had been sold. Apart from Harrold, the other staff members reportedly wished to remain anonymous.

The video also mentions a visit between Camilla and Zelenskyy's wife Olena Zelenska as having played a role in securing the deal.

Ukrainian First Lady Olena Volodymyrevna Zelenska and Queen Camilla pose for an official photo in which they appear seated on chairs in an opulent room
A meeting between Zelenska and Camilla did indeed take place and was documented on official Instagram accountsImage: President Of Ukraine/APA Images/picture alliance/ZUMA

According to German news agency dpa, the meeting in question took place on February 29. Zelenska herself published photos of the visit on Instagram, thanking the royal family and the United Kingdom "for their consistent support of Ukraine," for sheltering 200,000 Ukrainian refugees and for regular meetings. She did not mention Highgrove House.

No contact details and other irregularities

There are a number of irregularities on The London Crier website: For instance, when trying to access the site's linked social media channels, both its X and Instagram links lead to a website called "Codetipi" — a Wordpress template used to help create webpages.

The London Crier also provides no contact details on its site — on reputable news pages you would generally find an address and a phone number to be able to get in touch. DW was unable to contact the owner of the page.

At the bottom of the page, the publication also claims it has existed since 1863. Yet its "all rights reserved" time frame ends in 2023 and the website was not registered until March 26, 2024.

One can look up an individual website's details, such as when it was registered, on sites like "Whois" or "Viewdns.info."

There are also other questionable issues: Instead of authors' names, for example, articles are often posted from an "admin" account or by strange user names such as "dennis.marshall10" or "xavier.parker7."

Other articles appear unfinished or like mere brainstorming exercises.

These points are dead giveaways that The London Crier is not a reputable news page.

Ukraine war fact check: 1 year since Russia's invasion, 1 year of disinformation warfare

Fake news pages spouting Russian propaganda

But the title The London Crier may, nevertheless, sound familiar to some readers. That's because a real newspaper with a similar name did previously exist. According to the United States Library of Congress, a newspaper known as The Crier was published from 1968 to 1980.

In March of this year, a number of fake news websites popped up in the US — all with names similar to real former newspapers. The New York Times reported on websites with ties to Russia that bore names such as The Chicago Chronicle and D.C. Weekly. Though they may look like real news sites at first glance, the pages actually spout an endless stream of Russian propaganda.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
No stranger to disinformation campaigns: Zelenskyy has been targeted beforeImage: VESA MOILANEN/picture alliance/dpa/Lehtikuva

According to researchers at Clemson University's Media Forensics Hubconducting studies of so-called "narrative laundering," such disinformation campaigns use "both real news outlets in other countries, as well as fake news websites that look real, to lend legitimacy and credibility to false stories."

Zelenskyy himself has often been the target of Russian disinformation campaigns. According to the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO), the narrative that the Ukrainian president is buying luxury items such as yachts or mansions has been pushed in the past.

DW's fact check team has reported on these false claims before and found them to be baseless: No, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has not been purchasing luxury yachts or mansions — and, no, he did not purchase Highgrove House.

This article was originally published in German.

Silja Thoms stands and smiles as she looks into the camera.
Silja Thoms Senior Editor and Reporter