US celebrities unwittingly recruited to undermine Moldova’s president

Pro-Russian propagandists solicited US celebrities on Cameo to record videos calling for the downfall of Moldovan President Maia Sandu

US celebrities unwittingly recruited to undermine Moldova’s president

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BANNER: Moldovan President Maia Sandu at the Bucha Summit in Bucha, Ukraine, March 31, 2023. (Source: Vlada Republike Slovenije)

In late 2023, Maia Sandu, the president of Moldova and a frequent target of pro-Russian propaganda and political attacks, found herself the target of a fairly novel attack campaign: US celebrities, all of whom offer personalized recordings through online platform Cameo, calling for her to be “brought down” in Russian.

The Republic of Moldova is steadfastly resisting Russian influence and currently navigating a critical and extended electoral period. This phase is pivotal in determining the country’s future path, as the country could continue on a path toward deeper integration with the West or it could reverse course, lessening engagement with the West in order to rebuild ties with Russia in particular. Amid the elections, there has been a noticeable increase in online influence operations spearheaded by pro-Kremlin entities. These operations are seemingly aimed at discrediting and weakening Moldova’s current pro-European administration. These campaigns’ particular focus is to undermine Sandu’s authority, as she represents a significant shift toward European integration and away from Russia’s sphere of influence. This political battleground, playing out in the digital sphere, highlights the ongoing struggle for Moldova to protect its democratic processes.

The use of Cameo to pay – and likely deceive – Hollywood celebrities to level geopolitical attacks is not a novelty, as this incident covered in this report mirrors a similar one from July 2023, when Western celebrities were paid to record videos that were then compiled and edited – to include the incorporation of emojis and logos of mainstream outlets like TMZ – in order to falsely portray Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a drug addict. These videos circulated on social media as a part of a broader campaign to discredit Zelenskyy. Such incidents underscore the ongoing use of deceptive practices by pro-Russian propagandists to influence public perception and interfere in the political affairs of neighboring countries.

On September 26, 2023, a short video emerged on TikTok under the account @oleg_spb2, showcasing Hollywood celebrities in an unexpected political context. The video, entitled “Hollywood Celebrities’ Urgent Appeal to Maia Sandu,” features well-known US celebrities Dolph Lundgren, Lindsay Lohan, Brian Baumgartner, Eric Roberts, Michael Madsen, Mark Dacascos, and rapper Xzibit. They collectively deliver a message calling for the overthrow of Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu.

Each video starts with the celebrity warmly greeting Sandu, only to be interrupted by a Russian text claiming: “We, Hollywood stars, support the people of Moldova in their desire to overthrow you, Sandu. We join the flash mob #DavaiteSkinemSandu” (which translates to #Let’sBringDownSandu in Russian). The video ends with each of them repeatedly uttering in Russian, “let’s bring down Sandu.” Notably, the celebrities read the message from the screen and enunciate the text syllable by syllable, making the message difficult to discern and seemingly evident that they were unfamiliar with the language. It is highly probable that the Russian text was transliterated into English, leaving the celebrities unaware of the actual meaning of the words they were reciting.

The videos do not appear to be a deepfake, and the artists featured in the video are all on Cameo, a platform through which a user can pay a celebrity to record a video at the users’ direction. The logo of a Moldovan independent TV channel, TV8, can be spotted in the upper right corner of the video. Nevertheless, upon thorough examination of TV8’s website and social media channels, the DRFLab found no evidence of the viral video being posted or shared by the channel.

Screencapture of a video with a falsely inserted TV8 logo (red box). (Source: @oleg_spb2)

The DFRLab also reviewed the social media accounts of the celebrities featured in the video but did not find any related posts. This suggests that the video was likely created using Cameo. A search on Cameo revealed that each of the artists involved maintained an active account on the platform, displaying the rates for video recordings and approximate delivery times. To use the service, the customer only needs to specify to whom the message is intended and for what purpose it should be recorded (offer advice, congratulate on an anniversary, answer a question, etc.). The creators of the video likely ordered these messages through Cameo and then edited them by adding misleading subtitles, all done without the knowledge or consent of the celebrities involved.

A compilation of screencaps of Cameo accounts of the celebrities who delivered messages against Maia Sandu. (Source, left to right, top to bottom: Xzibit/archive; Mark Dacascos/archive; Eric Roberts/archive; Lindsay Lohan/archive; Dolph Lundgren/archive; Brian Baumgartner/archive; Michael Madsen/archive)

The TikTok account @oleg_spb2, responsible for initially sharing the video to the platform, actively posted on the platform, publishing over 200 videos that predominantly feature content from Kremlin-aligned propaganda talk shows. The account is now offline, though the DFRLab could not determine if it was voluntary deactivation or platform removal. The videos it published consistently pushed pro-Russian narratives while simultaneously adopting a stance that is anti-US and anti-Western. A significant part of the account’s focus was directed toward disseminating messages against Sandu and her pro-European government, highlighting a clear political agenda in its social media activities.

Screenshot of the TikTok account @Oleg_spb2 displaying pro-Russian, anti-US, and anti-Western content. Since the time of the screenshot, the account has either been deactivated or removed. (Source: @Oleg_spb2)

The Telegram channel “ВОЗРОЖДЕНИЕ МОЛДОВЫ” (Revival of Moldova) was the first to share the video from @oleg_spb2. Created on August 24, 2023, the channel has 490 subscribers and describes itself as an “Information and Analytical Resource for all those who wish for the revival of Moldova.” It uses a logo similar to the pro-Russian Revival Party. Later, the Telegram channel changed its logo and name to “Баба Параска” (Baba Paraska). The DFRLab previously reported on this account being involved in spreading disinformation about multinational military exercises in Moldova.

The post was then reposted by the “Gagauznews — Новости Гагаузии” channel to its 9,703 subscribers and later by “Salut Moldova” (Hello Moldova) Telegram channel, which has 5,654 subscribers, thus increaing the prevalence of the video and promoting the channel where it was first uploaded.

Screencap of Telegram posts showing the amplification of the Cameo video, all of which had the same caption. (Source: ВОЗРОЖДЕНИЕ МОЛДОВЫ, far left; Gagauznews — Новости Гагаузии, center; Salut Молдова!, right)

The video also had significant reach among the Moldovan pro-Russian Telegram channels “Приднестровец” (Transnsitrian), “Гагаузская Республика” (Republic of Gagauzia), “Молдавский Крот” (Moldovan Mole), and “Молдавский Vагон” (Moldovan Vagon), and “Блокнот Молдова” (Moldovan Notepad), accumulating over 85,000 combined views. The coordination in promoting the video between Revival of Moldova, Gagauznews — Новости Гагаузии, and Salut Moldova was also evident on Facebook, where eponymous pages uploaded the video with an identical caption, as on Telegram, “Let’s Bring Down Sandu. Hollywood stars Dolph Lundgren, Lindsay Lohan, Michael Madsen, Mark Dacascos, and many others called on to bring down Sandu.”

Screencap of Facebook posts showing the amplification of the video with the same caption. (Source: Salut Молдова!, top; Gagauznews — Новости Гагаузии, center; ВОЗРОЖДЕНИЕ МОЛДОВЫ, bottom)

Back on Telegram, pro-Russian Z channels were among those that posted and reshared the video , including Пул N3, gathering 192,000 views, and ZERGULIO, with 90,000 views. The two channels both posted the video with the same text, declaring that the Hollywood celebrities got involved in the flashmob-prank “for the freedom of Moldova from the tyranny of Maia Sandu.” The video also received exposure on, a Russian News Agency covering the “Eurasian region.”

Screencap of an article on Pro-Kremlin outlets EAdaily titled “Emergency message from Hollywood stars: Sandu! Bye Bye” (Source: EAdaily/archive)

Cite this case study:

Victoria Olari, “US celebrities unwittingly recruited to undermine Moldova’s president,” Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), February 15, 2024,